The Relationship of Louise Brooks and Kenneth Tynan and Parallels with the Fitzgeralds

Born in 1927, Kenneth Tynan was a renowned and respected yet sometimes controversial theatrical critic of the 20th century. Louise Brooks was one of the most iconic silent film actresses of the 1920s. Tynan knew of Brooks from her films, and had become infatuated with her work in Pabst’s film from 1929, ‘Pandora’s Box.’ Starting in the late 1970s, he grew a romance with Brooks.

Dying of emphysema in his fifties, he set out to find her to make all of his own dreams come true. He called Brooks his, “dark lady”, wanting to pursue his fantasies with her.

He found Brooks, well into her seventies in Rochester, NY. Tynan met the woman who had inspired such works as ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet’, a veritable masterpiece that he wrote for the New Yorker. They smoked, drank, talked, and in the end, she declared her love for him. He left his declaration of love for her up in the air. No one knew how much he truly felt for her until after his death.

Most of the stories that are told today about their love were brought forward by Tynan’s wife, Kathleen Tynan, who died in 1995, and through her screenplay, she wrote.

 

The Life of Kenneth Tynan

Kenneth Tynan was a huge advocate for the theatre but was also known for his elaborate parties, flooded with celebrities. He made himself a huge part of the up and coming generation of the 1960s, even though he was shaped through the 1940s.

Years before he met Brooks, he had impersonated her at a party, with a black wig and stockings.

Kenneth married Kathleen in 1967, she had given up journalism to support him and make a life with him in London. She had been loyal to him, even giving birth to their son, Matthew. Her writing had gone to the wayside for a while. It did pick up again just as her husband’s life began to fall apart, and he began to react with paranoia.

A few months after an article was released about Louise by Kenneth, he had written to Brooks, who was still in love with him. He asked her if she would be okay with him doing a biopic about her, and wanted to meet up with her. She had angrily written back, that she was not interested in the idea, and said he had betrayed her.

Kenneth was torn in two if he wanted to keep his fame or keep his love. He had been disloyal to not only his wife but his own fantasy too.

Kenneth died in 1980, but his legacy outlived him in Britain. He was very well known on British TV.

 

The Life of Louise Brooks

Born in Kansas, she left to go to New York to study dance, focusing on ballet. She was featured in many different dance groups in New York. While dancing in New York, she had an affair with Charlie Chaplin. They spent many days and nights together in a penthouse, she would dance, and he would act out scenes from plays.

Louise Brooks had lived in isolation in Rochester, NY since 1956, after making 24 films in her career since 1925. She had been in the silent film industry since then, and it had come to a screeching halt in 1938. Some of her masterpieces were “Pandora’s Box,” and “The Diary of a Lost Girl.”

She left Europe because she felt like she wasn’t respected, and had been told she was difficult to work with, too independent, and uppity. When back in Kansas, she worked as a salesgirl at Saks, did a few radio soaps, was a publicity agent, and was kept by three rich men from 1943-1955. Moving to Rochester in 1956, being invited there by the film curator at the Eastman House. Her largest collection of films is there, now the International Museum of Photography.

In his essay, ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet,’ Kenneth Tynan, he had mentioned that she was bedridden, and had osteoarthritis of the hip, but seemed happy about life. It was also said that she had written 20 articles on some of her fellow colleagues. Lastly, the article wrote that she loved to talk about her colleagues, her life, others, and that she has the essence of her late character Lulu. She called these memoirs, “Lulu in Hollywood.” She wrote these in the early 80s.

It was said in an interview, that when she was in Hollywood, she ended up walking out on them, and did the same thing to men. She was one of Hollywood’s most beautiful women. She talks about how her family home was weighted down with so many books of her father’s. When she and her brother would get into fights, he would retire to his library and read his law books.

After a career that dazzled the world, Louise Brooks passed August 8, 1985, in Rochester New York, of a heart attack, she was 78 years old. She was known for her dark bobbed hair, her acting, her dancing, her writing, and her personality.

 

Parallels Between Tynan, Brooks, and the Fitzgeralds

Louise Brooks had met F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda on two different occasions, according to Barry Paris. Similarities between the Fitzgeralds include their relationship between Louise and Kenneth were the adultery that characterized their relationships. Zelda was cheating on Frances since their relationship began, seeing as that she was a flapper of the late 1910s. Louise had been in many different affairs throughout her dancing and acting careers, before meeting Kenneth.

After their wedding in 1920, Zelda and Frances continued to have difficulties in their marriage, both becoming unfaithful to each other. Once Kenneth had finally met Louise, he had begun to cheat on his wife, Kathleen. Louise was the only woman he had any relations with, besides his wife. In this way, the couples share some commonality.

 

The Significance of Tynan’s, ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet,’ an Analysis

Penned in 1979, Kenneth Tynan’s insightful essay covered Brooks’ brief yet illustrious film career from its conception in 1925 to the twilight of 1938 when her last film was made. His essay lauded her films by Pabst in particular, citing such works as ‘Diary of a Lost Girl,’ and ‘Pandora’s Box.’

From her film career, he moves on to her later years in Rochester N.Y. where she was ailing yet still quite spirited. All in all, ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet’ is a touching account of one of cinema’s most beloved actresses.

He included a vast plethora of details into Brooks’ life, even touching on such details as her dance background in Denishawn and her love of Proust.

 

Kathleen Tynan’s Screenplay of Kenneth and Louise’s Relationship

Kathleen Tynan, Kenneth Tynan’s widowed wife, along with their son Matthew had written a screenplay about her late husband and Louise Brook’s relationship. The fictional film shows a dying critic’s love affair with one of the cinema’s largest icons, while still married to his wife. The film tells the entire story of Kenneth Tynan and Louise Brooks’s relationship and love story. Keeping her faith in her husband, Kathleen used the same spirit to keep the love alive, and as she wrote her screenplay.

 

Louise Brooks and Kenneth Tynan

“Most of the stories that are told today about their love were brought forward by Tynan’s wife, Kathleen Tynan, who died in 1995, and through her screenplay, she wrote.”

 

 

 

 

Connections Between Louise Brooks, Charlotte Brontë, and the Art of Writing

For film lovers, the name Louise Brooks commands a position of high esteem. The silent film actress was a breathtakingly talented woman who achieved impressive acclaims in dance and literature. Charlotte Brontë, a towering literary figure, created nothing less than art when she introduced ‘Jane Eyre’ to the world. Here, we examine what these two highly revered figures share in common.

 

Louise Brooks, Timeless Ghost of the Silver Screen

Most will know Louise Brooks for her unforgettable performances in silent film, especially from the works of Austrian director and cinematic artist extraordinaire, G.W. Pabst. She captivated audiences in films like, ‘Diary of a Lost Girl,’ and ‘Pandora’s Box.’

There were several important traits that set her apart from the average slew of young actresses. Louise Brooks was highly intelligent, well-read, and refreshingly independent. It is in her flair for independence that we find a connection to Charlotte Brontë’s character, Jane Eyre.

 

Charlotte Brontë, the Writer Behind the Genius of ‘Jane Eyre’

Charlotte Brontë was a brilliant author who defied the limitations men had put on women producing written work. Writing under the guise of a male name, Currer Bell, she crafted one of the most magnificent works of literature ever seen. The character of Jane Eyre is one of the most intriguing and dynamic ever to be brought to life on the printed page.

 

Louise Brooks and Charlotte Brontë’s Contributions to the Art of Writing

Although Louise Brooks is well-known for her work as an actress and dancer, her writing is among some of the most eloquent ever penned. Charlotte Brontë’s writing, while certainly distinct, shares certain qualities with that of Brooks.

Both of them were exceptional at capturing a feeling or a mood. Brooks, who mastered the conveyance of emotion on the screen brought the same power to literature. Her descriptive quality was also most impressive.

Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’ has stood the test of time. Written works by Louise Brooks such as, ‘The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing,’ and, ‘Lulu in Hollywood,’ have also proved to be quite worthy of revisiting so many years after being written.

Brooks’ ‘Lulu in Hollywood’ is a breathtaking autobiographical account of her time in Hollywood. Like ‘Jane Eyre,’ it is just as thought-provoking to read today as it was so many years ago when first published.

 

What Charlotte Brontë, Louise Brooks, and the Character of Jane Eyre Have in Common

We don’t have to look particularly closely to infer that there are some strong and undeniable similarities between Charlotte Brontë, Louise Brooks, and the character of Jane Eyre. All of them are remarkably unique as individuals yet several qualities tie them together.

Jane Eyre, the protagonist of Charlotte Brontë’s book of the same name, was fiercely independent and had a penchant for defying social norms, a quality that stood out in 19th-century literature. It could be said with some accuracy that Louise Brooks was a rather independent soul. Unlike countless actresses of the day, including many of her peers, she distinguished herself for refusing to sleep with film producers to advance her career. She built a marvelous career not only on her beauty but also a great deal of talent that anyone picking up one of her films today can readily appreciate.

One of the most direct and irrefutable parities between Brooks and Brontë is that both of these incredibly talented figures were tragically overlooked at times. The films of Louise Brooks were swept under the great and unrelenting waves of history until rediscovered when attention graced her once again. It first happened in the 1950s when Henri Langlois proclaimed her to be greater than the likes of Greta Garbo and Dietrich. Kenneth Tynan’s revealing 1979 essay, ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet,’ published in The New Yorker, also served to bring her back from the depths of obscurity.

Brontë captured that sort of independent spirit in a quote, “I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Indeed, the very spirit of that line hearkens to Louise Brooks who refused to be tied down or restricted by bourgeois rigidity. Brooks was quite familiar with the idea of independent will from her reading of Schopenhauer. Reading Schopenhauer shocked society, as they weren’t accustomed to young pretty girls reading complex literature.

Charlotte Brontë was once woefully overlooked, especially in her own lifetime. As a literary artist, few compare to her brilliance on the page. Her mastery of representing the shades of human emotion is simply extraordinary. Despite this, she was not given an obituary in the New York Times. It was her husband, a pastor, whose obituary was featured in the revered publication after he dies nearly half a century later.

By uncovering the works of Brooks and Brontë, the world happened upon a treasure trove of artistic brilliance that is truly timeless.

 

Thymian, Brooks, and Eyre, a Comparison

Thymian, one of the most iconic characters played by Louise Brooks in Pabst’s silent film, ‘Diary of a Lost Girl,’ went to a reformatory school. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre also attended reformatory school and both characters witnessed the drudgery and social oppression that these schools represented for women.

Another commonality between Brooks and Eyre is that in a sense, they both ended their stories in Rochester. In the case of Brooks, it was in Rochester, New York, after being invited to relocate there by James Card while Jane Eyre concluded her story in the company of Mr. Edward Rochester.

 

Capturing a Master of Cinema Thru Literature, Tynan’s ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet’

Kenneth Tynan’s essay, ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet’ did much more than help bring Brooks out of the depths of obscurity, it also served as a masterpiece in its own right. Tynan’s essay has a cinematic flow to it that plays out frame by frame as he spoils readers with priceless details on the famed actress.

He gives plenty to savor including Brooks’ thoughts on such luminary figures as Charlie Chaplin. In the end, however, he leaves us wanting, still yearning for more. Evoking Roman Polanski’s ‘China Town,’ it is that inconclusiveness that keeps the fire of interest in Louise Brooks alive and well.

 

Louise Brooks and Charlotte Brontë Continue to Inspire Today

Both the film and literary world can still feel the power of Louise Brooks and Charlotte Brontë’s influence. For those of us who take a deeper look back into the lives and artistic creations of these two, we stand to learn something not only about them but about ourselves. The same independent streak that characterized Brontë’s beloved character Jane Eyre and Louise Brooks still resonate today.

We can also simply admire these two women. Louise Brooks is as much of a delight to read on the page as she is to watch on the screen, while Charlotte Brontë’s work speaks to us in ways that few authors ever have.

What both Louise Brooks and Charlotte Brontë captured on the page was as precious and wondrous as capturing the soft glow of moonlight on the open water. We are unlikely to see such awe-inspiring individual talent again, but we have the comfort of revisiting it in the works that Brooks and Brontë produced.

 

Charlotte Brontë and Louise Brooks, Connections and the Art of Writing

“Thymian, one of the most iconic characters played by Louise Brooks in Pabst’s silent film, ‘Diary of a Lost Girl,’ went to a reformatory school. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre also attended reformatory school and both characters witnessed the drudgery and social oppression that these schools represented for women.”

 

 

 

 

Ruth St. Denis, Denishawn, Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan – Influence on Dance and Legacy

When talking about the world’s greatest dancers, the names of Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham, and Isadora Duncan come to mind. These women took the dance floor by storm and in the halls of memory, have performed some of the most exquisite dances the world has ever seen.

Here’s what dance enthusiasts should know about these extraordinary dancers, and how these souls influenced dance. We will also touch on the Denishawn school of dance and the impact it made.

 

What Is Denishawn?

Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts was an advanced and respected dance school that was founded by legendary dancer Ruth St. Denis. The name is a derivation of her surname and that of her husband and fellow dancer, Ted Shawn.

Founded in 1915, the school influenced some of the most talented dancers of the era including the renowned, Louise Brooks before her acting career.

The school that trained some of the best and brightest dancers closed down in 1931 due to Ruth St. Denis’s divorce from Ted Shawn. The timing of its closure came shortly after the roaring twenties had come to a terrifying close as the economy plunged into ruin. The great parties were over and by the 1930s the public had grown tired of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s rosy descriptions of parties that seemed unthinkable under the crushing weight of the stock market crash.

As such, Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts’ closure was part of larger events that led to many dancers who had glamorous careers through the 1920s into obscurity. Here we are going to dust off the pages and shed some light on these incredible dancers who helped make the Jazz Age what it was.

 

The Dancers

These great dancers were all the rage in years past. People would come from miles around just to get a glimpse of such talent. When on the dance floor. Here’s an overview of the most talented dancers and what we can still learn from a careful study of these illustrious careers.

 

Ruth St. Denis

Born in 1879 in Newark, New Jersey, Ruth St. Denis was 36 when she and her husband started Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts. The school was started after she had already gained traction in her career as a contemporary dancer. Not only was her work as a dancer respected, Ruth St. Denis was considered to be a great innovator.

She is said to have influenced nearly every stage of American dance. Indeed, her influence can still be felt today. Any in-depth study of dance will mention her name and outline her work in service of the Art.

 

Martha Graham

Martha Graham was one of the most graceful choreographers in the history of dance. Hailing from Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and born in 1894, she grew up through some of the most exciting times in dance.

One of the defining characteristics of her work, which was the expression of primal emotional intensity. Her work is quite extensive and spans more than 180 creations including solos and large scale productions.

Highly revered as a teacher of choreography, the lessons she imparted to students helped them succeed in dance. One can only imagine what it would have been like to have trained under her.

A student of Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts by 1916, she was at one time an acolyte of Ruth St. Denis. By 1923 however, she diverged from St. Denis’s sort of dance philosophy and disapproved of what she called its eclecticism.

By 1924 after a spell with the Greenwich Village Follies, Martha Graham joined the Eastman School of Music which led her to Rochester, New York. Her time in Rochester was prosperous and she came to teach and experiment at leisure.

 

Isadora Duncan

No proper discussion of dance would be complete without mention of Isadora Duncan, one of the most profoundly talented dancers to hit the stage. A true pioneer, Isadora pursued freer movements in dance that came to influence future techniques.

As a trailblazer, she blasted through some of the stuffiest most stubborn headed resistance to the progression of dance as an Art form. Dancers today owe Isadora Duncan some measure of gratitude for her labors to advance the Art and bring more freedom to dance.

Born in 1877, Isadora Duncan began instructing in dance at the remarkably young age of 6. If that wasn’t impressive enough, by age 10 her classes had grown and she continued her career as an insightful and commanding teacher of dance.

Her time in Europe brought her into blending elements from Greek mythology and Italian Renaissance paintings into her dancing. Her work in Europe gained her the respect and acclaim not only of adoring fans but of her peers as well. One dance at a time, Isadora Duncan became one of the greatest dancers the Western world ever produced.

 

What Legacy did These Great Dancers Leave Behind?

Legendary dancers like Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham, and Isadora Duncan left behind a bright and powerful legacy in the world of dance. Students of the art form continue to learn the styles, and innovations introduced by these most talented souls.

We would suggest that anyone looking to get at the heart of what makes dance truly great as an art form visit the teachings of these extraordinary pioneers who led the way so long ago. Time has not marred the value of instruction. Like a fine wine, the insights left behind by these dancers have grown all the more potent and flavorful.

 

Ruth St. Denis, Denishawn, Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan - Influence on Dance and Legacy

“Born in 1877, Isadora Duncan began instructing in dance at the remarkably young age of 6. If that wasn’t impressive enough, by age 10 her classes had grown and she continued her career as an insightful and commanding teacher of dance.”

 

 

 

 

Parallels between ‘Lulu in Hollywood’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’

Anyone looking to delve into the thoughts of the legendary actress Louise Brooks can find some delightful insights in the similarities between ‘Lulu in Hollywood’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and ‘Through the Looking Glass.’ The big connection between the two is that Lulu’s Hollywood is a version of Alice’s Wonderland, seeing that all of the good people are sucked in under the power of producers.

 

Comparing Lulu and Alice

Perhaps one of the most direct most palpable connections between ‘Lulu in Hollywood’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ is the portrayal of Hollywood as a realistic sort of Wonderland. Anyone who has ventured the streets of Hollywood can readily attest to its distinct flair for the bizarre. Even with the many developments and changes since Hollywood was still very much a Wonderland of sorts in the time period in question.

To truly appreciate what they have in common, one must start with seeing Louise Brooks, or, Lulu, as Alice. Upon initial examination, there are certainly some undeniable similarities between the two.

In her memoirs, she talks about her mother’s passing in 1944 and how she is still with her through memories, such as their readings of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ The very mention of it in this way indicates that the story left a strong impression on the talented actress.

 

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll in 1865, as a children’s novel. In this story, a young girl named Alice falls asleep and drifts off into her dreamland, Wonderland. She chases around a rabbit and comes in contact with many new characters trying to find her way back home.

Some of the characters are the Cheshire Cat, Mock Turtle, The White King and Queen, the Mad Hatter, the Dodo, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and of course the infamous Queen of Hearts, or the Red Queen and her knights. Once she defeats the Queen of Hearts, she then awakens to realize it had all been a dream.

Many of the actors in the 1933 Alice in Wonderland, had also worked with Louise Brooks on other productions. Some of them include Richard Arlen playing the Cheshire Cat, W.C. Fields as Humpty-Dumpty, Leon Errol as Uncle Gilbert, Skeets Gallagher as the Rabbit, Cary Grant as Mock Turtle, Raymond Hatton as Mouse, and Ford Sterling as the White King. The actor of the White Queen, Louise Fazenda, was once mistaken for Louise Brooks.

One of the other infamous people in Brook’s life was Edmund Goulding. He had played the King of Hearts in 1909.

In the 1915 version of Alice in Wonderland, the costumes are the biggest part of the entire silent film. The performers are heavily done up in costumes, where Alice isn’t. To make all of the scenes work, masks and make-up are used.

 

Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland, written in 1871 also by Lewis Carroll. In the sequel, Alice is taken back through the looking glass, back to Wonderland, to find out she can’t remember anyone’s name, including her own. With the help of her previous friends and the White Queen, she does finally remember who everyone is, and who she is herself. Once again, the entire thing was just a dream, and she finds herself back home, playing with her kitten.

 

Lulu in Hollywood

Louise Brooks wrote seven pieces over a few years for film journals, with many different topics. Her early writings include a memoir of Marion Davies’ niece Pepi, who is addicted to morphine, an alcoholic, and a victim of the Hollywood scene.

Next is a rough writing on Humphrey Bogart, someone “afraid of words” and someone who never did anything, but “sit and drink and talk to people.” She wrote about W.C. Fields getting better treatment than Bogart, he was seen as one who feared to be pushed aside and left to die in the Hollywood heap. She goes on to tell tales of other members or former members of Hollywood, some in negative ways, others in positive. Lulu in Hollywood features big-name gossip and a lot of surface appeal.

 

Further Reading

A few more notes on Lulu in Hollywood, Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass, and how they are so similar. With both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Alice dreams of somewhere better, and it turns into something worse but ends in it all being a dream. Louise felt the same way with her life, going back and forth to Hollywood, and thinking it had everything, but in the end, it was all just a dream, and she found something so much better.

Her writings have put Hollywood into a different perspective to others, that it’s not all glitz and glam. The producers want too much from their actors and actresses, and they don’t get enough in return. Those producers feel like they own their crew, and treat them poorly, and then all of a sudden, the crew turns on their producers, just like in Alice.

For more information on Louise Brooks, check out the insightful blog, Naked on My Goat, for all the essential information on the star that shook the film world before receding into obscurity.

 

Lulu in Hollywood and Alice in Wonderland

“To truly appreciate what they have in common, one must start with seeing Louise Brooks, or, Lulu, as Alice. Upon initial examination, there are certainly some undeniable similarities between the two.”

 

 

 

 

The Mystery of Naked on My Goat: Schopenhauer, Proust, Goethe, and Louise Brooks

The legendary, yet tragically overlooked silver screen actress, Louise Brooks was mostly admired for her hauntingly graceful beauty. For those looking to find a deeper appreciation for this woman of remarkable talents, there is certainly more than meets the eye. Louise Brooks was much greater than her mere physical appearance alone. It is her intellectual talents that are the most underappreciated. Here, we take a look into her impressive intellect.

 

The Actress who Read Proust and Schopenhauer

When growing up, Louise Brooks’ father was such an avid collector of books that he was literally sinking the family home with the weight of his cavernous private library. Her father would often retreat to his library and into the comfort of his extensive literary collection.

Her mother was also clearly quite educated. One of Louise’s early memories was of breaking a piece of her mothers’ china. The only reaction her accident elicited was not to interrupt while she was reading Bach. Such was the early life of the girl who would become one of the most revered actresses of the silent film era.

Keep in mind that for a woman, let alone a film actress, to be reading the like of Proust, Goethe, or Schopenhauer was considered nothing less than a marvel at the time. Remember, other greatly talented actresses like Hedy Lamarr, also had an impressive intellectual range. One that at the time was largely dismissed as her physical beauty took center-stage, leaving her other talents in the distant foreground. At the time, the world, the world of men more specifically, had no interest in the astounding intellect of such actresses.

 

The Girl Who Quoted Proust

As a young actress, Louise Brooks stood out to men in the film industry as the girl who read Proust. Her readings of Proust was one of her most pronounced characteristics intellectually. It brought her respect, although it was considered something of a novelty. Already expelled from the world of the living by 1922, Marcel Proust was considered one of the most authoritative writers on love. He left a profound intellectual legacy in his literary work which was not lost on bright young women like Louise Brooks.

 

Schopenhauer, One of Louise Brooks’ Strongest Influences

It is her readings of Schopenhauer in particular that come through as we can see how strong his influence was in her. In the novel ‘The Chaperone’ by Laura Moriarty, the author depicted Brooks already voraciously consuming the wisdom of Schopenhauer’s famed essays at the young age of 15. One can scarcely imagine nearly any actress today reading such deep and thought-provoking material at that age. While Moriarty’s depiction belongs in the realm of conjecture, Brooks was clearly well-versed in literature at an early age regardless.

Her copy of the essays included a personal bookplate and was well-worn from use. When on the set of ‘Pandora’s Box’ in 1928, a young Louise Brooks was spotted reading Schopenhauer’s, ‘Aphorisms’. When seen reading such an intellectually stimulating book, she was met at first with disbelief. No one surmised that she could be reading such a work out of genuine interest and it was once proposed that it was a publicity stunt. Doubters were proved most incorrect as her commanding knowledge of Schopenhauer was made known throughout her life.

Schopenhauer is noted as one of the first German philosophers to take eastern thought into consideration. As such readers like Louise Brooks were exposed to broadened horizons.

Under these broadened horizons, Louise Brooks would have been exposed to Buddhist thought through Schopenhauer’s references to it in his philosophical writings. His outlook was one of a competition of the Will in which was essentially endless and full of suffering.

When Kenneth Tynan wrote his beautifully crafted essay, ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet,’ he noted a towering pile of books on a stool in her home. Among the authors gracing her stool was Schopenhauer.

 

Esoteric Meanings, Literary Influences, and Goethe, ‘Naked on My Goat,’ the Autobiography That Never Was

At one time Louise Brooks set out to write an autobiography to encompass the breadth of her most intriguing and undeniably extraordinary life. We will never be fortunate enough to get a glimpse at it however as she burned the manuscript in horror. Overwhelmed by pudeur, she shut it down.

In an article she penned in 1977, ‘Why I Will Never Write My Memoirs,’ Brooks indicated the inhibiting influences of the complex cocktail of Midwestern morality. Plagued by a preoccupation with guilt and sin it was this Midwestern thinking that was to prevent her from divulging the sort of passionate details that would be necessary for a proper autobiography. Brooks believed that to craft a truly engaging autobiography, one has to shed light on one’s loves and hates, desires and so forth. Brooks summarized her predicament in saying, ‘I cannot unbuckle the Bible belt.’

However, she did leave us some precious insights which can be found in ‘Who is the Exotic Black Orchid?’ an unpublished account for her autobiography. We can also find some rare excerpts from, ‘Naked on My Goat’ in Barry Paris’ biography on Louise.

In the excerpts that remain, readers hoping for more references to the likes of Proust and her beloved Schopenhauer may be found wanting. Those looking for the influence of Goethe, however, will be most pleased. Regardless, what remains of her autobiography offers us an even deeper impression of her mind.

It should be noted that in writing ‘Naked on My Goat,’ Brooks weaved in traces of Goethe whose writings she knew well. The title itself refers to a passage from Goethe’s masterpiece, ‘Faust’ that dark and mesmerizing tale of the man who sold his soul to Mephistopheles.

The passage is from one of the Walpurgisnacht scenes featuring the Young Witch’s speech. In her speech, she sat naked upon a goat bragging of her glistening youth to an older witch. The latter reminded the former that youth and beauty fade with time and emphasized the inevitable progression of rot.

 

From Explosive Popularity in the Roaring Twenties to Obscurity and Then Rediscovery, the Journey of Louise Brooks

The life of this extraordinary soul experienced some dramatic ups and downs. Being launched into success and the fulfillment of her wildest dreams throughout her youth in the 1920s, Louise Brooks was the toast of the silent film world. Later on her acting career, in part due to her refusal to lessen herself by romancing the film producers as many other actresses have done, came to a halt.

Other important achievements in her life include when she launched her own dance school. She also published one of the most treasured and authoritative texts on dance in 1940 when she wrote, ‘The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing’.

In 1955, her work was brought into the light again when Henri Langlois featured a period-poster of Louise Brooks by the entrance to a French film exhibition. Triumphantly, he declared, “There is no Garbo. There is no Dietrich. There is only Louise Brooks!” Even today, the statement has a certain appeal and is hard to argue with.

Also in 1955, she was truly rediscovered by James Card, film curator of the George Eastman House, the oldest photography museum on the planet. Mr. Card invited her to Rochester, New York and brought back into the light before her passing in 1985. In the late 1970s, famed film critic Kenneth Tynan, a long-time admirer of the actress, visited her in person. The result was one of the most revealing and captivating publications on Louise Brooks’ life when he wrote, ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet’. The essay was featured in The New Yorker and was well received.

Before her passing, she published, ‘Lulu in Hollywood,’ a marvelous collection of autobiographical essays in 1982.

In 1985, we lost one of the brightest stars to shine through the silver screen. Her talents, as an actress, writer, and dancer were among some of the most pronounced of her generation. In knowing the extent of her intellect, we can greater appreciate her work when visiting the lost worlds of silent film. It is within these lost worlds bound by celluloid that Louise Brooks still reigns. From the distant confines of these films, she remains as young, beautiful, and sharp-witted as ever. The films of Louise Brooks will live on for as long as there are devotees to preserve them.

 

Louise Brooks and Naked on My Goat

“It should be noted that in writing ‘Naked on My Goat,’ Brooks weaved in traces of Goethe whose writings she knew well. The title itself refers to a passage from Goethe’s masterpiece, ‘Faust’ that dark and mesmerizing tale of the man who sold his soul to Mephistopheles.”

 

 

 

 

The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing

For those fortunate enough to know the name Louise Brooks, the very mention of her stir the curiosities like one would stir a Manhattan. Many would be pleased to know that Louise Brooks, a woman of many talents, went far beyond the confines of acting. She was also an accomplished and exceptionally talented dancer and writer. Here we will cover one of her most delectable publications, ‘The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing.’

 

Louise Brooks, the Starlet Shrouded in Mystery

Many will know Louise Brooks for her outstanding work in silent film. Movies like ‘Pandora’s Box’ still carry great importance and are deserving of study today, nearly 100 years later.

If one takes the concept of the Renaissance Man to be someone possessing many talents, Louise Brooks was a Renaissance Woman. We’re talking about an age when women were subjected to conformity and had excruciatingly limiting restrictions placed on their careers. Louise Brooks not only led an amazing career, but she also set an example. Here’s a glance into one of her finest literary works, ‘The Fundamentals of Ballroom Dancing’.

 

What to Know About ‘The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing

Before delving into the content of this extraordinary work, we’ll take a little detour into her experience as a dancer, to, set the stage as it were. Louise Brooks was formally trained in dance in Wichita, Kansas, not from her birthplace of Cherryvale.

We can only imagine the excitement of learning dance in such a time. It was the sweet spot between the turn of the century and before the horrors of the second-world-war. To be young in those days, for some, would be much more thrilling than in today’s world, even with the marvels of telecommunications and modern technology.

It is at this time that Louise Brooks became educated in the art of dance. Armed with this knowledge and a thousand experiences in between, she gained the authority to write a commanding text on ballroom dancing. Her work in ‘The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing’ ring true today and has been cemented as one of the most insightful works on the subject to date. Her firsthand experience is so priceless and inimitable, that it makes for a truly one of a kind work. The book itself is Art.

In 1922 she went to live in New York. The fateful decision led to the opportunities that fueled a spectacular career, the kind that most of us can only dream of. We will never see times like those again. They belong to history and there they lay, still rumbling with the rancorous roaring and Jazz Age lives that were the 1920s.

 

The Contents

Louise Brooks’ extensive coverage of this particular art includes these dances forms.

 The Fox Trot – A very smooth dance, has its origins in the warm summer of 1914, from the mind of Harry Fox.

 Waltz – a crowning achievement of Western civilization, it was created between the 13th and 18th centuries in Germany and Austria before becoming one of the most popular dances in the world.

 Tango – an influential and passionate dance born on the sunny streets of Buenos Aires  Argentina, and Montevideo Uruguay.

• Rumba – is a Cuban dance that was made popular in England when Monsieur Pierre after visiting the island nation through the ’40s and ’50s.

Among these highly respected dance forms, she also delivers a breathtakingly eloquent dissertation on the rules and dance floor etiquette.

 

Louise Brooks’ Teachings on These Dances

When relaying her teachings on these dance forms, she goes over the steps for both men and women, giving readers all the information they would need to dance. In doing this, she is remarkably concise. It could be said that a single page of her book on the foxtrot is worth a whole volume on the subject by anyone else.

The Fox Trot

On the foxtrot, she notes that the musical style typical of the dance is easy to identify, however it can still be quite difficult to pick up the beat as the tempo is so varied.

The Waltz

She described the waltz as one of the most beautiful dances. Describing the way waltz dancers dance on their half-toe she remarks that they rise and fall like nutshells in a heavy sea. It is passages like these that make Brooks’ work so moving and genuinely extraordinary.

 

Reaching Out to Generations of the Future

The incredible work of art and knowledge that is Louise Brooks’ ‘The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing’ still has lessons to impart to today’s readers. Such an authentic work from someone who truly lived in the time when these dances were at their best is worth far more than anything more recent.

People may never live or dance with the same amount of both flair and precision again, making her work a window into a glorious past to fill our dreams. Readers will be drawn into the depths of a lost world and empowered with the teachings to bring a small spark of that world back to life.

In our closing remarks, we leave the reader with one of the most basic yet profound passages of her book. When outlining the rules for ballroom dancing, Louise Brooks told her acolytes of dance to never take one’s feet off the floor. It can be said with some accuracy that she never did, as a woman of many talents, she graced the silver screen, and the printed page as well as the dance floor.

 

The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing by Louise Brooks

“Her work in ‘The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing’ ring true today and has been cemented as one of the most insightful works on the subject to date.”

 

 

 

 

G.W. Pabst: One of Austria’s Greatest Directors

In the blur of the sands of time, certain ghosts from the silver screen rise and fall in and out of obscurity. For those with the gumption to delve into the past, the greats of the silent film world can impart priceless insights. Whether for the sake of filmography research or out of genuine interest in the people themselves, there is always something to discover.

Every now and again we like to knock the dust off of the giants of the silver screen and bring them back to life. One such individual, is the mysterious and prolific director, G.W. Pabst.

 

The Great Mr. Pabst

Hailing from the heavily forested and mountainous nation of Austria, Georg Wilhelm Pabst was arguably one of the brightest and most forward-thinking directors of his time.

Mr. Pabst got his start in film after World War I as an assistant director. His first film was introduced in 1923 in the form of, ‘The Treasure’ or ‘Der Schatz’. The first decade of his film subsequent film career was in the heart of German Expressionism in cinema.

One of the inherent themes associated with his work is women in adversity oppressed by a malignant social order. The end results in these films were either imprisonment or abandonment, making for a unique perspective in film at the time.

For movies of the silver screen, these themes are especially significant as his films were, sometimes, considered rather controversial in nature. The controversy is also a key part of what gave Pabst’s films such power, and that power still sends echoes into the modern world, hearkening to a very different time in cinematography.

 

His Greatest Films, Lost Worlds of the Silver Screen

All of the films mentioned below carry the same undertones of the oppressed woman faced by a hostile society that confined her.

 

‘Pandora’s Box’

One of the most compelling films from the last 90 years, ‘Pandora’s Box’ was released auspiciously on the eve of destruction, shortly before the stock market crash of 1929. It was the end of the party, one that had filled a decade with some of the most excessive displays of opulence the world has ever seen.

The film itself is an artistic tragedy that will haunt the imagination for years to come and is arguably one of Pabst’s most important works. The protagonist, Lulu, convinces a middle-aged newspaper publisher into marriage. Not long afterward he puts his bride at gunpoint in a fit of jealousy. In the struggle, she shoots him and subsequently goes on the lam with the publisher’s son who is enamored with her. As the story continues she leaves a trail of men whose lives have been devastated in the wake of her innocent yet seductive charms.

The concept of Pandora’s Box as we are familiar with from ancient Greek mythology is embodied in the character of Lulu. Tragedy befalls all who interact with her.

As such, the character comes to symbolize the destructive effects of Pandora’s Box whilst despite a flair for the amoral, retains some manner of intrinsic innocence. With many violent twists, the film carries dark undertones that are made even more intriguing as a silent film.

After narrowly escaping capture, she lives with her adopted father and descends into the squalid life of a courtesan, reduced to walking the streets. Her social descent leads to tragedy as she meets a frightful end on the dank streets of London at the hands of Jack the Ripper.

 

‘Diary of a Lost Girl’

Both ‘Diary of a Lost Girl’ and ‘Pandora’s Box’ take a sharp turn towards the sensual and delaminates a significant progression in Pabst’s cinematic style. As both of these films feature the legendary actress Louise Brooks, who plays Thymian in this film, they represent some of his finest work.

Curiously, ‘Diary of a Lost Girl’ happens to share some characteristics with the novel, ‘Lolita’. Themes that are arguably shared by the two are prostitution, pregnancy, and prejudice. These similarities are also easily spotted in Adrian Lyne’s film adaptation of the novel, ‘Lolita’ which borrows from ‘Diary of a Lost Girl’ quite heavily. In this way, the work of Pabst and Lyne are somewhat similar in their use of these themes.

Not only do the themes of prostitution, pregnancy, and prejudice characterize these two works, there are some arguable connections between characters as well. Humbert, the perverse protagonist of ‘Lolita’ who hungers for his wife’s daughter and winds up in prison has much in common with Meinert. In ‘Diary of a Lost Girl,’ Meinert plays Thymian’s father’s assistant who lusts after the young Thymian and ultimately impregnates her.

One thing that Thymian and Humbert have in common, is that they both kept diaries through times of adversity. Humbert wrote his diary from prison while Thymian wrote from the horrors of her hellish life.

In ‘Diary of a Lost Girl‘ the protagonist, portrayed by Louise Brooks, is thrown out of her home by family after becoming pregnant with a pharmacist’s child. Matters were made more complicated when she refused to marry him, which led to great conflict in the film. The theme is just as valid today as it was nearly a century ago in 1929.

 

‘The Joyless Street’

Set in the storied city of Vienna during one of the most dreadful periods of economic depression, occurring shortly after the close of the First World War, the film is a tale of money, intrigue, and romance.

Full of ambition, Egon Stirner vies to manipulate the stock market and falls in love with Regina Rosenow, the daughter of an elite. His love is unrequited however and he embarks on an affair with Lia Leid, the wife of a prosperous doctor. As the film progresses murder and scandal ensue as characters struggle with desperation. The film evokes a powerful message in that the viewer’s sense of the character’s plight and despair is remarkably palpable.

As such, ‘The Joyless Street,’ is another of Pabst’s successes in imparting strong emotional currents through film.

 

A Career to Learn From, the Filmography of G.W. Pabst Lives on

Reaching out from the depths of the past, Mr. Pabst’s unique filmography continues to teach those working in or interested in film to this day. With a firm grip on certain minds, his work lives on and serves as a most extraordinary example of human creativity and cinematic mastery.

 

Louise Brooks and G.W. Pabst

“One of the inherent themes associated with his work is women in adversity oppressed by a malignant social order. The end results in these films were either imprisonment or abandonment, making for a unique perspective in film at the time.”

 

 

 

 

The Unlikely Orbits of Louise Brooks and Arthur Schopenhauer Collide in Time and Space

For Every Action… There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction

Imagine a silent film actress. Imagine a wildly beautiful silent film actress. Imagine a wildly beautiful silent film star on the set of G.W. Pabst’s lurid, cult classic Pandora’s Box. Between takes, she picks up her worn copy of Schopenhauer’s essays. It is dense, heady, German Idealist philosophy from the mid 19th century.

How does his powerful prose color her experience of the film set? What refractions does she find through that lens?

This was Louise Brooks. She possessed a singular drive along with an abundance of spirit and intellect. Both qualities were well demonstrated as she guided herself along an uncanny and powerful path, from her Midwestern upbringing, dancing through New York City in the 1920s, and on to Hollywood.

She exerted influence in tinsel town, despite her detachment from its bylaws and her refusal to fall victim to its compromising economy. She blazed an artist’s trail.

 

Where Did She Come From, Where Did She Go?

She left home at 14, joining a modern dance company, the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, which took her to first New York City, then all over the country, coast to coast.

Devoted to her craft, she deftly navigated interpersonal tensions and spring-boarded her way to Broadway, quickly leaving behind her distant and legal-career minded father and self-absorbed artist mother.

She left behind the sexual abuse she endured at age 9 at the hands of a neighborhood man, who she referred to as “Mr. Flowers” in later journals, although this experience will figure into every relationship she cultivated for the rest of her life.

Her rapid rise caught the attention of Hollywood studio heads. By the end of the summer of 1925, at 18, she will have enjoyed a brief love affair with Charlie Chaplin and signed a 5-year contract with Paramount Pictures.

She was shining.

She catapulted to further success in the next three years, taking leading roles in successful films, enjoying relationships with powerful Hollywood figures, partying at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. She had made the right friends. She was emulated, adored, desired.

But she wasn’t wooed. She steadily lost interest and respect for the industry and soon took her aura and abilities to Germany, where her performance as Lulu in Pandora’s Box by G.W. Pabst sealed her place in the annals of film and art history. Hollywood missed out – her best work was recorded abroad.

She was just 25 years old. She didn’t know it yet, but she would live on in the imagination of the world, she will forever be Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box.

 

Affluence, Pessimism, and the Universal Will

Now imagine a young German student, Arthur, a prodigy of science, philosophy, and classic languages. It is 1813, he is 25 years old. He has enjoyed an affluent upbringing filled with travel, fetes, the theater, and extensive education.

His mother, despite his father’s unconfirmed suicide 8 years prior, sits at the helm of a well-known salon frequented by Goethe, with whom he has just begun an inspiring correspondence. In a remarkable show of self-assurance, Arthur sent him his dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, impressing him with his depth.

This was Arthur Schopenhauer. He would go on to write and publish a rigorous body of work, serious scholarship that did not baulk at critiquing giants of German thought: Kant, Hegel, and even his familiar Goethe. His mother described him as combative and mercurial; he viewed her own literary work as frivolous. They did not enjoy an easy relationship together.

He won’t attain the recognition he felt he merited until late in his career. Over time, he will come to be known as a philosopher of pessimism.

This moniker only tells a fraction of his philosophy, which itself describes a system of thought in which man may do and act according to his own desire. However, man is ultimately subject to a universal Will that controls all systems, from the movement of gravity to the hunger of the housecat.

His hierarchical systems places man atop this schema, with the artist and the deep empath further elevated as the highest expressions of aesthetics and ethics, respectively.

 

It’s All in the Timing

What unexpected consequences that existence itself choreographs, to bring about the scenario described at the outset of this writing. But it was a real occurrence, misinterpreted though it may have been by Brooks’ contemporaries as a publicity stunt.

Louise Brooks read Schopenhauer and Proust on set. Louise Brooks had true intelligence.

Schopenhauer’s views on women as inferior are well known. He would never have believed that an actress would study his writings, let alone internalize his philosophy and come to embody his structures. Yet her quick aptitude was real.

 

On Mysticism and Will in Post-Kantian Weimar

The concept of will, as formulated by Schopenhauer’s philosophy, delineates a world of intense competition, even one where the competitors are not always aware of their motivations in action.

It is competition born of no ultimate goal, unending, and present in every aspect of everything. Note well: competition with no goal can never be satisfied, and thereby guarantees suffering to those competing.

The parallels to Buddhist philosophies – of Samsara and the cycle of suffering are clear. For Schopenhauer, life was a competition of Will, without end, replete with suffering.

The echoes of eastern mysticism and theories of detachment were not born in a vacuum. Schopenhauer read and studied the Upanishads and early Buddhism during his time in Weimar and he is noted among the first Germans to bring Eastern thinking into their philosophical system.

 

East Meets West and then Goes Even Further West

In studying Schopenhauer, Louise witnessed a concrete example of the man’s philosophies during her time in the ruthless film business.

She studied the competitive ecosystem of the film set.

It was a predatory space, a clash of artistic expression and the simple greed of unchecked appetites. She had, so far, navigated this terrain with success, keeping her self-worth intact, refusing to advance by submitting to the casting couch, or to the advances of lecherous executives.

She was witness to competition and suffering.

As an art maker, in spite of the Idealist thinker’s undervaluing of her gender at large, she sat atop the realm of perception as he outlined its boundaries. She was an artist. A genius in his system.

For Schopenhauer, artists are those rare creatures able to perceive the beauty of nature, the essence of things. Through their art and creations, more common thinkers are able to witness nature apart from themselves, apart from the universal will that informs their every action.

Artists illuminate reality.

Louise was a living illustration of his system of thought, functioning at its highest level.

In this system, the artist is endowed with an abundance of intellect, so much so that the intellect, normally existing in the service of Will, gains an independence. The artistic output gifts common thinkers with a rare experience of nature as an idea.

There, on set, aware of the pointless competition of all things, and aware that her strengths wrought an alchemical change on her fellow humans, what desires did she cultivate?

Did she join the melee and manipulate toward her desires? Did she give in and participate in the senseless economy of will and suffering?

She chose neither. She chose to release desire.

 

Know When to Fold ‘Em

By 1940, after returning to Hollywood and enduring a period of blacklisting, she abandoned her film career entirely. Studios claimed her voice did not record well for talking pictures.

What more perfect embodiment of detachment than to leave behind success and renown, failure and scandal?

She returned to her early skill, dance, and begin a period of drifting. As she wandered, she gravitated toward seclusion, abandoning or being abandoned by her friends, first in her home state, then in New York.

Before it was the site of so much success and acceptance, but she was no longer part of the NYC socialite circles. Her choices and occupations defied not only their expectations, but also undermined their worldview and devalued their lifestyle.

Since she refused to pursue the same goals. She was cast out.

In phases, step-by-step, she retraced her path of growth, now as a path of renunciation and asceticism. In New York, suffering herself, she fell further in synch with the hierarchies of Schopenhauer. She recognized, ever the truth-seeker, shattering her ego, that her motivations were utterly like all others in the world.

The majority do not see this.

This very thought, only found after poverty and rejection, became her freedom.

 

You Can’t Ever Get What You Want

For Schopenhauer, faced with the ultimate acknowledgement of this struggle of universal will, the only possible resolution is renunciation.

To live is to be subject to this universal will. Yet this will is impossible to satisfy. Therefore, to live is to pursue an unattainable goal. This is suffering.

Living is then to be subject to suffering. If living is suffering, the only logical response to life is abandoning desire, minimizing the suffering.

This worldview resonates clearly with ancient texts from his early studies. The Buddhist tenet that all life is suffering and that the only liberation from that suffering is freedom from desire can be applied as a method for living in the face of Schopenhauer’s pessimistic construction, the suffering of the world.

In the freedom from desire, the suffering beneath the universal will can be minimized. But who can free themselves from desire? And how?

 

The Cleansing Powers of Truth, Flames and Anonymity

Doesn’t the post-Hollywood journey that Louise Brooks undertook resonate as just such a journey? One toward freedom from desire?

Alone in New York, abandoned by her society friends, working as a call girl and shop girl. How did her days pass?

No more parties, no more film sets. No dancing in a nightclub. Her retreat progressed further and further away from the limelight, away from familiarity. What motivated this continual departure, this shedding of layers of her public self, as she retraced her youthful trajectory?

In her own words, a hard process of self-discovery was at work. She invited the flames of brutal honesty to purify and distill her own self-image.

Her work had undergone a handful of revivals at the hands of Italian and French intellectuals and film-historians, most notably Henri Langlois, at the Cinemateque Francaise’s 60-year anniversary of film. She was featured next to Joan of Arc, in place of any of the more famous film stars of her day. Her work again became known and recognized.

Now, though, the recognition was headier, not obsessed so much with Louise Brooks bob, as it was with honoring her craft, respecting her contributions to film.

 

An Unexpected Patron in Rochester Hands Louise the Pen

Louise’s third act is a beautiful one. She wrote. She was published. She was heard.

She was invited to move to Rochester, NY, by James Card, who was a film curator of the George Eastman House, the oldest photography museum in the world. The museum bears the name of its benefactor, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.

Louise was drawn out of her reclusive New York City existence with the lure of developing a nascent skill. Card encouraged her to write, to commit her experiences to record, to move into film criticism. She did so with gusto, and her work was published, late in life, in prestigious journals: Sight and Sound, Cahiers du Cinema, and others.

And so she wrote, from the little-known corner of Rochester, New York. She wrote her memoirs in relentless pursuit of truth that bashed her own ego to pieces. She hard boiled her Hollywood memories and laid bare her sexuality, her failures, her motivations, ever the exemplar of that genius Intellect, casting its influence over Will.

Her resulting body of work, nearly 30 tomes varying in length from 20 to 120 pages, is intensely personal. The collection remained sealed, at Brooks’ request, for 25 years following her death. Her memoirs, entitled Lulu in Hollywood, were published in 1982.

Schopenhauer’s work, too was discovered late in his life, by thinkers from foreign lands.

 

An Open-Ended Finale and the Triumph of Words for Louise Brooks

As she sat between takes, reading about universal will, did she consciously shape her life through that lens? Did she recognize herself as an artist, elevated in that worldview, as a seeker of truth and iconoclast?

Perhaps she recognized a kindred spirit in Schopenhauer, and as the dead-end economy of will and desire was laid bare before her, freedom from desire became the only clear path.

Or perhaps Schopenhauer’s own genius glimpsed into the future, to art forms that did not yet exist, societies that were still forming, and described an arc that Louise Brooks was only too ready to bring to life.

Her passions would carry her from the extreme of small-town America, to scandal in the public eye, to isolation. Yet she emerged cleansed, signaling through the flames that her voice indeed recorded well.

 

Lulu and Schopenhauer

“Schopenhauer’s views on women as inferior are well known. He would never have believed that an actress would study his writings, let alone internalize his philosophy and come to embody his structures.”

 

 

 

 

All About Brooksie: Discovering the Art of Lulu

While Louise Brooks was a symbol of the silent film era, her talents extended beyond the stage and movie set. She was also a writer and accomplished dancer, as well as a symbol of beauty and rebellion.  

Writer, Dancer, Actress 

Mary Louise Brooks was born in Cherryvale, Kansas, on November 14, 1906. Brooksie, as she was known throughout her childhood, began dancing with the Denishawn Dancers in 1922 when she was just 16 years old. She was dismissed in 1924 and became a chorus girl in a Broadway series called Scandals

In 1924, Louise left for Europe before returning to New York the next year; she went on to join the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. When Hollywood came calling, she answered, and then went on to make silent films that would help to define her career. A Girl in Every Port premiered in 1928 in New York and was directed by Howard Hawks.  

More than just a pretty face, she was also an avid reader and researcher. In addition to her autobiography, she wrote film magazine articles, many of which are included in Lulu in Hollywood. Brooks’ extensive collection of private journals were bequeathed to the George Eastman House museum before she died, with the instruction that they would remain sealed for 25 years. 

Her classic bobbed haircut, independent spirit, and trendsetting fashions became an inspiration for women all around the world. As the flappers of the 1920s donned shorter skirts and rebelled against social norms, Louise Brooks was a stylish representative of who they were.  

Her film roles included Pandora’s Box (1929), Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), and Beggars of Life (1928). Louise Brooks’ film career ended in 1938, after she had made 24 movies and traveled the world. But she went on to paint and write books, including an autobiography, and opened a dance studio in her home state of Kansas.  

Although she rarely granted interviews, she did agree to take part in documentaries like Memories of Berlin: The Twilight of Weimar Culture and Lulu in Berlin, filmed ten years before her death and released in 1984.

Artwork Offerings

Several pieces of fine artwork that captured Louise’s image were completed over her lifetime and have been reformatted into digital artwork pieces by Vintage Brooks. They include:  

​• Louise Brooks: This shot was originally taken by Eugene Robert Richee, a famed studio photographer, in the late 1920s. A new rendition by Vintage Brooks takes the original piece and turns it into modern, digital artwork. Products are available in canvas, framed, acrylic, and metal prints, just to name a few.

Louise Brooks in Hollywood: When fans of Brooksie want a picture that shows her true self, this is the one to get. This portrait of the writer, actress, and dancer in statement jewelry and a patterned dress is thought to have been taken around 1927. In addition to prints, devotees can also secure a tote bag, phone case, and shower curtain.  

•   Louise Brooks with Bust of Dante Alighieri : Hollywood photographer Elmer Fryer originally shot this photo for Louise’s film God’s Gift to Women, 1931. Vintage Brooks has turned it into beautiful digital art, available in prints, greeting cards, and throw pillows.  

•   Louise Brooks in Berlin : This digital art offering shows Louise Brooks as Thymian Henning in Diary of a Lost Girl (1929). It can be purchased in canvas print, framed print, and normal print format.

Lulu in Books

Books written by and about Louise Brooks. They include:

•  Dear Stinkpot: Letters from Louise Brooks (by Jan Wahl): Wahl and Brooks had a special, twentysomething-year relationship that they strengthened in part through letterwriting. Their letters, showcased in this collection, offer fans a personal glimpse into the lives of two people with an enduring friendship who also had their own challenges that often spilled out onto the paper.

Wahl and Brooks met in 1956, he a poor aspiring writer and graduate student. Within the correspondence are mentions of Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian author whom Wahl admired and was taught by at Cornell University. In time, Brooksie too grew to appreciate Nabokov’s writings and hoped that Wahl might pass on to him her autobiographical short story, “Naked on My Goat.”  
 
•  Louise Brooks Biography: Lulu Forever (by Peter Cowie): Noted author and film historian Cowie takes us into the life of a celebrated icon who corresponded with him for almost 20 years. Those who love Lulu will appreciate the books’ offerings of rare movie footage still shots and private photos, as well as a collection of letters.  
 
•  Lulu in Hollywood (by Louise Brooks): Louise’s own autobiography will enchant readers as they dive into personal essays about her childhood, life as a dancer, and time as a Ziegfeld Follies “Glorified Girl.”

Louise Brooks Movies, Prints, and Fan Collectibles 
 

Two of Louise’s films, Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora’s Box, offer just a glimpse of her talent and silent rebellion against the social norms of the day. Diary features the star playing the role of a naïve young girl named Thymian who becomes pregnant against her will by her pharmacist father’s business associate. She then leaves her baby with a midwife before eventually ending up in a high-class brothel. The film is the second collaboration with director G.W. Pabst.​

Pandora’s Box is available in a 2-DVD collection and is also directed by Pabst. This film follows Lulu, a showgirl, in her downward spiral as she journeys from dancer to streetwalker. The late 1920s Berlin provides the background for the story of an aspiring star who ends up in destitute London before picking up her final client, Jack the Ripper.  

In addition to films, avid fans of Louise Brooks will also love the selection of movie posters, handwritten letters, and photos that showcase the actress as she really was.

Social Media Connections

Sites like YouTube and Facebook provide great opportunities for fans to connect, watch short snippets of film, and find links to their favorite items for purchase. The Vintage Brooks YouTube channel is an excellent resource, and you can visit and interact with the Facebook page.  

​For additional products and gift ideas, browse the selection at Vintage Brooks to see what you need to complete your collection, or what you would love to give as a gift to an avid Brooksie fan in your life.

 

Louise Brooks - Exclusive Artwork and Memorabilia

“More than just a pretty face, she was also an avid reader and researcher. In addition to her autobiography, she wrote film magazine articles, many of which are included in Lulu in Hollywood.”

 

 

 

 

Louise Brooks, Lolita, and Nabokov: Names, Titles, & Secret Muses

What does compelling evidence amount to in the absence of outright proof? How far does mere suspicion carry you without a frank confession? In a court of law, evidence and suspicion are typically inadequate where securing a desired verdict is concerned.

But the court of public opinion is a quite separate phenomenon, indeed.

Which brings us to the legendary Silent Era film star Louise Brooks (1906-1985), to her brief but monumental on-screen career, to the famous work of literature which may well have drawn inspiration from her captivating persona, and to her unpublished memoir Naked on my Goat, which she inexplicably incinerated after having devoted considerable time to its completion.

As it happens, the book potentially inspired by Brooks can be plausibly linked to the book destroyed by Brooks. The case here hinges as much on sound logic as it does on speculation—a conclusion one way or the other remains elusive.

The work of literature which Brooks may have inspired is none other than Lolita, published in 1955 and written by Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian-American author from whom Louise Brooks was, at one point in time, removed by only one degree of separation…a fellow writer.

More on that to follow. We must first understand who Brooks was in life to understand who she might have been in fiction.

Artistically speaking, Louise Brooks was as much a screen presence as she was a screen actress. Which is to say, she was possessed of a certain physicality and an otherworldly radiance which rendered her a gift to the eye and a marvel within the medium that had elevated her career to splendid heights.

As her two most significant starring roles were in silent films, her ability to enrapture audiences strictly via the camera’s lens was essential to her livelihood. But there was more to it than that…and it seems possible Nabokov might himself have taken notice. The two films (both directed by Austrian filmmaker G.W. Pabst) were Pandora’s Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929). Each film’s respective narrative centers on themes which relate closely to Brooks’ own life and to foundational elements of Nabokov’s own Lolita.

Pandora’s Box (1904) was penned by German playwright Frank Wedekind, before being adapted for the screen by Pabst, and traffics heavily in themes of lust, violence, and innocence rendered forfeit in the fray of it all. His Lulu (later portrayed by Brooks) is at once an emblem of tragedy and, ironically, one of empowerment. Diary of a Lost Girl (1905) was written by the prolific and literarily essential Margarete Böhme, and is also rife with tragedy, but is predicated in pronounced fashion on the theme of violation.

It is as though Pabst’s collaborations with Brooks, which touched perilously on such taboo and challenging subject matter, created a conduit via which the latter’s most delicate of life experiences were laid bare for the artful eyes of nascent storytellers (such as Nabokov) to themselves behold and potentially channel. For Brooks would, years later, reveal horrid details of sexual abuse she, at the age of 9, suffered at the hands of an adult male from within her own community.

Whatever sense of vulnerability this trauma left upon Brooks may have contributed to the strength of her most noteworthy film performances some fifteen years later.

If so, it stands to reason that Brooks’ adolescent struggles and the screen presence they yielded either directly influenced the literature of an observant Russian author.

Or, the literature of an observant Russian author coincidentally summoned to Brooks’ mind these past struggles to such a degree that the publishing of Naked on my Goat crossed a threshold into the unthinkable…into the undoable. Brooks had, after all, read Lolita and took an initial dislike to the subject matter. Her opinion changed after a subsequent reading, but perhaps only from an objective literary standpoint.

The psychological connection between Nabokov’s professional imaginings and Brooks’ adolescent reality may have created an impasse where the latter’s own literature was concerned, at least in the instance of Naked on my Goat. Brooks’ close friend and enduring confidant, the author Jan Wahl, was a onetime classmate of Nabokov’s, hence the previously mentioned single degree of separation.

As to whether this relative proximity proved at all significant in shaping Brooks’ opinion of Lolita is unknowable, but the connection does bear mentioning.

There is another facet to this story that warrants scrutiny: That of Salvador Dali and of his own literary forays, two of which bear noteworthy similarities to Lolita, which they both pre-date. The first of these is titled Reverie: An Erotic Daydream (1931), the second The Secret Life of Salvador Dali (1942). Both books feature a character by the name of Dullita.

In the former, Dullita is a young girl of 12 who becomes an object of sexual obsession in the mind of a male painter many years her senior. In the latter, which is Dali’s autobiography rather than a work of narrative fiction, Dullita’s presence is depicted not in outright carnal terms, but in a more complete and less objectified capacity. Her objectification and reduction (at least in Reverie) to a target of forbidden obsession seems plainly consistent with Lolita’s central plot composition. But the similarities are less substantive than they might at first seem.

The degree to which Nabokov borrowed from his forebear Dali is a matter of some literary debate. Aside from the obvious parallels between Reverie and his own Lolita, the name “Dullita” is very nearly plaintive in its insistence that a comparison be drawn. However, it could easily be argued that Dali’s inspiration was so removed from that of Nabokov as to render the comparison largely facile. His Dullita is characterized by striking similarities to 19th-century Irish dancer Lola Montez (often mistaken for a Spaniard) and appears more closely aligned with the folklore sensibilities of the previous century.

Conversely, Nabokov’s Lolita draws decidedly upon 20th-century mores, cultural hallmarks, and literary conventions. So much so, in fact, that direct comparisons to Wedekind’s Lulu are strongly defensible. In truth, if one probes deeply enough, one might piece together the Lolita character (if not the novel she inhabits) when examining the archetypes on display between Wedekind’s Lulu and Böhme’s Thymian Henning.

Opening the door on names, it should be noted, is to open Pandora’s Box, if you’ll pardon the play on words. For, as it happens, the name “Lolita” is freighted with significant context and literary precedent, enough to point the needle of Nabokov’s inspiration not (strictly) to Dali, but indeed back to Louise Brooks. For the name Lola is a Spanish diminutive of Louise, which does inadvertently suggest a link to Dali’s own muse. But that link seems wholly inadequate when measured against the direct connection between the “Lola” and the seminal actress who bore that first name—Louise Brooks herself.

Did Nabokov succumb to a subconscious round of inspiration when bestowing the eponymous “nymphet” with a name so seemingly reminiscent of “Dulitta”? Perhaps. If so, the international community of literature scholars could simply box this one up, pin a bow on top, and declare the debate over. What holds up to greater scrutiny is the idea of Nabokov’s having transposed the collective identities of Lulu and Thymian (convincingly portrayed by Louise Brooks) into a narrative structure that bears tangential similarities to an earlier, and ultimately very different, work by Salvador Dali.

What ultimately became of Louise Brooks’ Naked on my Goat is not entirely known. Was her incinerated manuscript the sole extant copy? The answer remains a mystery. Even so, the plausible explanation argued herein as to why she destroyed at least one copy of the work may shed light on just what it was the nigh-mythical Louise Brooks had to say. At present, we will leave it with public opinion, and to its omnipresent court.

 

Louise Brooks, Lolita, and Nabokov

“The psychological connection between Nabokov’s professional imaginings and Brooks’ adolescent reality may have created an impasse where the latter’s own literature was concerned, at least in the instance of Naked on my Goat.”