Louise Brooks, 1906 – 1985
Louise Brooks is a 20th century icon. Her hair is her trademark. Her distinct Dutch bob framed a face of astonishing beauty. Fair skinned and freckled, Brooks appeared on film as something almost luminous. Her sleek black hair – the famous “black helmet” – defined a face both inviting and enigmatic. Hers was a “face that the camera loved.”
Ironically, Louise Brooks is perhaps least remembered for what she was – a gifted actress. Between 1925 and 1938, she appeared in 24 films. Early on, she worked with directors Malcom St. Clair, Eddie Sutherland, William Wellman and Howard Hawks in films such as It’s the Old Army Game (with W.C. Fields, 1926), The Show-off (with Ford Sterling & Lois Wilson, 1926), Love Em & Leave Em (with Evelyn Brent, 1926), Beggars of Life (with Wallace Beery & Richard Arlen, 1928), A Girl in Every Port (with Victor McLaglen, 1928), and The Canary Murder Case (with William Powell & Jean Arthur, 1929).
Brooks’ accomplishments did not go unheralded. During the late 1920’s, the one-time Denishawn dancer and Ziegfeld girl inspired both the long running comic strip “Dixie Dugan,” as well as the stage play “Show Girl.” In 1927, according to biographer Barry Paris, Louise Brooks was the fourth most written about actress (in terms of major magazine articles) after Clara Bow, Joan Crawford and Colleen Moore.
Brooks’ career in Hollywood is overshadowed by what is certainly her best-known role, as “Lulu” in the classic German film, Pandora’s Box (1929). Under the direction of G. W. Pabst, Brooks’ subtle, erotically charged style of acting emerged. Upon its release, Pandora’s Box largely failed in Germany and was barely reviewed in the United States. Brooks’ style was so natural that critics complained she either couldn’t or didn’t act. Today, Pandora’s Box is considered a landmark of the silent cinema.