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.”





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.”