LOUISE BROOKS by Barry Paris
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The early rocket-rush to film fame--and fast falling-off into outer darkness--of the quintessential flapper, known mostly for her hair style (""the girl in the black helmet""). But Louise Brooks had a brain behind her hair. She grew up in Kansas, read avidly, got her musical talents from her mother. Seduced at nine, she lifelong thought herself an actress-whore. By age ten she was ""what amounted to a professional dancer"" (according to her brilliant memoir, Lulu in Hollywood), dancing at clubs and fairs all over southeastern Kansas. An unbending individualist even at 15, she left Wichita and joined the Denishawn dancers in New York, danced with Ted Shawn and Martha Graham. But Louise grew bored easily--by 17, she was being starred in the Ziegfeld Follies, got bored by Ziegfeld routines, left for Europe, then for Hollywood and the flickers. After a sexy summer affair with Chaplin, she turned down a new contract from Paramount, went to Berlin and--directed by G.W. Pabst--made Pandora's Box, her greatest film. As the infamously ravishing Lulu (killed by Jack the Ripper), Brooks says she was only playing herself, but she registered not only as one of the reigning beauties of the century but also as a superb actress whose every thought shone through lustrous dark eyes. She was now 23. After another picture for Pabst and one for Ren‚ Clair, it was back to Hollywood--and the obscurity of B-pictures (her last, at 31, was a John Wayne oater for Republic). Her brief brilliance shaded into life as a recluse in Rochester, which brightened after she published her Hollywood memoir. Fame revived, but loneliness shrank her into a feisty old woman who lived on the telephone, read the classics, began losing her memory, and wrote down every word spoken to her. Death at 78 drew tiny obituaries. Rich, busy, without one boring moment--and Brooks shines.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1989
Publisher: Knopf