LULU IN HOLLYWOOD by Louise Brooks


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Seven pieces, written over the years for film journals, by legendary silent-film star Brooks (Pandora's Box)--whose prose is crisp but whose viewpoint far too often seems a shrill mixture of self-righteousness and sour grapes. "". . . I have remained, in cruel pursuit of truth and excellence, an inhumane executioner of the bogus. . . ."" Thus begins the best piece here; a brief record of Louise's early years--from Kansas childhood, with lawyer father and musician mother (""examples of excellence"") and dancing school, to N.Y., where Louise determinedly got herself instructions on speech, menus, clothes, etc., till she landed in the Ziegfeld Follies. Then comes a glimpse of location-shooting in 1925: praise for Wallace Beery but disdain for the slimy others, who insisted on treating high-integrity Louise as a slut. Next: a discursive memoir of Marion Davies' unfortunate niece Pepi, a morphine-addicted, alcoholic victim of the Hollywood/San Simeon scene; Pepi's grim misadventures are intertwined with Brooks' own, not-very-sympathetic problems with divorce and affairs. Then: a crude hatchet-job on Humphrey Bogart--a weakling, ""afraid of words,"" a willing slave to the star system, an un-dynamic actor. . . who never did anything but ""sit and drink and talk to people"" and used each wife for career purposes (even Lauren Bacall, ""who was primarily a businesswoman""). W. C. Fields gets somewhat more balanced treatment--he was ruined by ""the clutching fear of being discarded to die on the Hollywood rubbish heap""--while L. Gish and Garbo, admirable sorts, naturally suffered Hollywood's ""public execution"" (Gish) or ""bloodless exile"" (Garbo). And finally there's a brief but welcome account of the Pandora's Box filming: ""I was a dancer and Pabst essentially a choreographer in his direction."" Lots of surface appeal, then: big-name gossip, zesty attacks--plus 128 photos, many featuring that stunning face. But most knowledgeable readers will sense the over-simplifying, defensive sensibility at work here--a bitter drone that kills the fun.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1982
ISBN: 0816637318
Publisher: Knopf