Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks!"

Thus spake the Frog Henri Langlois about Louise Brooks, whom I did not know had lived, died, and is buried right here in Rochester, New York (in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery no less!) until reading Bill Kauffman's delightful Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town's Fight to Survive, in a chapter about Rochesterian writer Henry W Clune, taken from this article — Henry and Louise in the Lair de Clune. This exceprt explains how she came to live among us:
    Louise Brooks staggered into Rochester because she had nowhere else to go. She was a Kansas chorine who made a slew of silent movies, most famously the German G. W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929), in which she played Lulu, the guileless hedonist, irresistible to men (among others) until, lucklessly, she picks up Jack the Ripper. (Talk about Mr. Goodbar!)

    Louise was an erratic, arrogant, dissipated beauty. She refused to sleep with the moguls (though she conferred her favors on almost everyone else) and ridiculed Hollywood while taking its money. The industry was run, she later wrote, by "coarse exploiter[s] who propositioned every actress and policed every set. To love books was a big laugh. There was no theater, no opera, no concerts—just those goddamned movies." A has-been at age 33, Louise fled the glitz.

    She ended up back in Wichita, teaching dance, until a scandal involving the better part of a high-school football team made it best for her to move on. She drifted downward until 1956, when she settled in Rochester at the invitation of the curator of the Eastman Museum of Photography, whose archives she mined to write a series of razor-sharp essays later combined in Lulu of Hollywood.

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