Parallels between Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Blue Velvet, Lolita, Diary of a Lost Girl, and Pandora’s Box: A Film Analysis

For those of us who seek to explore the history of film looking for patterns, we have to go deep into cinematographic history. We must go all the way back to the silver screen and leaving no stone unturned.

We can discover some form of commonality between the five distinct films. As we shall discover, there are certain shared attributes between the films of ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me,’ ‘Blue Velvet,’ ‘Lolita,’ ‘Diary of a Lost Girl,’ and ‘Pandora’s Box.’

 

What Are the Patterns in These Films?

Perhaps the most discernible and pronounced patterns that connect these five films, is the current of psychoanalytical thought coupled with themes of irrepressible desires that ultimately come through.

 

‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me’

One of the most revealing pictures created by David Lynch, his artistic and intellectual interests come through boldly in this unique film. Based around the events leading up to central character Laura Palmer’s death, the movie offers a peek through the keyhole into some of the darkest corners of the human psyche. In lighter terms, it has been described as surrealist neo-noir, which is not entirely inaccurate.

These glimpses into the shadows of human minds is a recurring theme in David Lynch’s work. Much of his filmography is consciously designed to invoke a feeling of a dream-like state. The feeling of these states of mind is intended to unsettle the viewer. It is perhaps because of this that his films are so highly regarded by his dedicated fan base. One must admit that it is a very unique spin on filmmaking that takes it back to the artistic veins once explored more avidly on the silver screen by pioneers like G.W. Pabst.

 

‘Blue Velvet’

‘Blue Velvet’ is another David Lynch film that carries the same unique dark undertones that are characteristic of his work. These distinguishing themes are found in the plot which follows an investigation prompted by the discovery of a human ear. The investigation surrounds an enchanting nightclub singer and the kidnapping of her child.

David Lynch’s experience as a painter comes through in this film as well as his insistence of film as an art form rather than a purely commercial vehicle. Specific messages are also absent from ‘Blue Velvet’ as various thoughts blur together like swirls of paint on a canvas.

 

‘Lolita’ 1997

‘Lolita,’ is a thought-provoking film that defies boundaries. First released in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick, and then again in a later adaptation by Adrian Lyne in 1997, the films were inspired by Nabokov’s novel of the same name. The defiance of conformity in ‘Lolita,’ shows the mind of man at its basest level. The protagonist marries in order to romance his new bride’s 14-year-old daughter, Dolores who he assigns the pet name of Lolita.

The man had become condemningly obsessed with girls of similar ages as Lolita. In this way, the film is quite controversial in its own right, and understandably so. The concepts addressed and presented in ‘Lolita’ are very delicate as the very theme of this movie is a powder keg. The protagonist is thoroughly detestable and invokes much hostility from the typical viewer.

 

‘Diary of a Lost Girl’

G.W. Pabst’s ‘Diary of a Lost Girl,’ offers viewers a firsthand look at its leading character, Thymian’s tragic downfall through a series of dramatic events. Thymian was played by the magnificent yet often overlooked actress, Louise Brooks.

‘Diary of a Lost Girl’ features some of her best acting and is driven by the compelling storytelling of G.W. Pabst whose work in directing the film, ensured that it transcended mere cinema and joined the ranks of Art.

 

Similarities Between ‘Lolita’ and ‘Diary of a Lost Girl’

The similarities between these two films are found primarily in the form of the characters Dolores, and Thymian respectively. Both of these two women are inherently rather innocent and become entwined in the sick machinations of sordid perverted men.

In the case of Dolores, who becomes the perverted Humbert’s, “Lolita,” she is simply a young girl to which Humbert projects his unnatural desires.

Thymian, on the other hand, is also relatively innocent and is drawn into the dark world of the perversions of unsavory men.

 

‘Pandora’s Box’

One can only try to resist the urge to say that we were saving the best for last. Viewers will decide for themselves, of course, however, the intrinsic genius of ‘Pandora’s Box’ can never be denied. The story follows the exploits of Lulu, an amoral vixen portrayed by Louise Brooks. Her character ensnares all who are around her in tragedy.

Throughout the film, her unrelenting pursuit of whimsical desires leaves a trail of sorrow as her actions result in the destruction of multiple lives. Anyone who would maintain that modern society has lost all of its morals may learn a few things from viewing ‘Pandora’s Box.’ We have not necessarily advanced in immorality, but rather have come to repeat ourselves. In this glimpse into the past, we can see just how little people have changed. In the end, she herself is killed by Jack the Ripper after a dreadful fall into ever lower rungs of society and disgrace.

One could argue that Lulu’s desires drove the other characters including herself into tragedy. Watching the film, we can infer various things from the interplay between her and the other characters. Mr. Schön, her lover, becomes distraught over their relationship as he is destined to marry a respectable woman and retain a good position in society. That position is threatened by his association with Lulu.

We can see how the notions of societal norms come into play and affect the character’s decisions. We also see time and time again how Lulu and her paramours not only challenge the confines of social norms but openly defy them.

A veritable treasure of the silver screen and film more generally, ‘Pandora’s Box’ remains a most thought-provoking work.

 

Connections Between ‘Pandora’s Box,’ ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me’

In ‘Fire Walk with Me,’ Laura Palmer engaged in prostitution and was murdered, a similarity she shares with the character Lulu, from ‘Pandora’s Box.’

Lulu is sent to work the streets by her adopted father, Schigolch who could be said to be similar to Laura Palmer’s father in this way. Jack the Ripper, who kills Lulu in the film, was known to target prostitutes, which we can infer was his motivation in attacking Lulu.

 

Final Conclusions

In our closing remarks, we’d like to point out that all of the films we’ve discussed here delved into some of the darker corners of psychoanalysis. Most of these films are regarded rightfully as Art, others more of a curious window into the world of the human mind. For those looking to go farther down the rabbit hole, pick up these flicks, sit back, and see what ties them together.

 

Parallels in Film, ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me,’ ‘Blue Velvet,’ ‘Lolita,’ ‘Diary of a Lost Girl,’ and ‘Pandora’s Box’

“These glimpses into the shadows of human minds is a recurring theme in David Lynch’s work. Much of his filmography is consciously designed to invoke a feeling of a dream-like state.”

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

The Mysterious Inspiration Behind Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita”

The brilliant yet somewhat obstinate story of Lolita from Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 publication often comes up with discussing controversial literary works. The tale focuses on Humbert Humbert, a professor of literature who becomes intimately involved with a pre-teen girl after seducing and marrying her middle-aged, widowed mother.

Although stories like this have been a part of literature for centuries, Nabokov’s piece was always considered to be an original work of fiction. Literary scholars have studied this along with his other work over time.

However, in 2005, a literary critic created controversy when he made claims that Nabokov’s Lolita wasn’t original and may have even been stolen.

 

The Claims Against Nabokov’s Original Work

Michael Maar, the literary critic who made the claims against Nabokov’s work, argued that the writer may have come up with the idea for Lolita after reading the little known 1916 German short story of the same name.

Although the German tale has a very similar plot, it didn’t have the same creativity and enchantment as Nabokov’s story. Also, the fact that Nabokov didn’t speak German makes this claim a little less believable.

While this claim may be easy to rule out, there are others that make more sense. Such as the idea that Nabokov could have drawn his inspiration from the surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

 

How Salvador Dali is Linked to Nabokov’s Lolita

Delia Ungureanu, the Assistant Director of the Institute for World Literature at Harvard University, had a discovery while doing research on dream literature. Dali had written a short story that had long been forgotten about by many, titled Reverie: The Erotic Daydream.

The story was published in 1931, nearly 15 years before Nabokov’s Lolita. Dali’s story tells about the fantasy of a middle-aged painter, instead of a professor, who makes plans to seduce an underage girl after he attempts to get her mother to fall in love with him.

Having a similar plot isn’t the same as copying an idea or stealing a story, however, the girl’s name in Dali’s story makes the claim more viable, since it is “Dullita”.

The argument that Ungureanu makes is featured in the book “From Paris to Tlon: Surrealism as World Literature,”. The Harvard assistant director’s claims do not stop with the similarities between Dali’s tale and Nabokov’s. She also states that Dali’s form of Lolita shows up once again in his work, this time in his memoir, “The Secret Life of Salvador Dali”.

 

Connections to Jan Wahl and Hollywood Actress Louise Brooks

Children’s author Jan Wahl met Louise Brooks when he was still a struggling writer. Brooks, the former silent film star was twice his age, yet the two seemed to have a lot in common that sparked their long-lasting friendship. They corresponded with each other through handwritten letters over the course of 20 years.

Their desire to write is what drew the pair together and kept them connected. This is the theme of the book Dear Stinkpot: Letters from Louise Brooks, written by Wahl.

Their love of writing as well as discussing books and authors is brought up frequently in Dear Stinkpot. There is also a good number of letters that focus on Vladimir Nabokov. Jan Wahl had taken classes with Nabokov while attending Cornell University. He was also an advocate to Nabokov when he was writing Lolita.

During the time of this correspondence, Brooks was busy working on an essay titled “Girl Child in Films”. She had read Lolita and at the time being, disliked it. However, over time she began to grow fond of Nabokov’s work. She even suggested that Wahl pass along her 1951 autobiography Naked on My Goat. She described the short story as her own version of Nabokov’s Lolita.

 

The Parallels Between Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl, and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita

Throughout Wahl’s Letters to Stinkpot collection, Louise Brooks rarely speaks of her own career and her time as a silent movie star. Occasionally she would reference her work in G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box where she played her most memorable role of Lulu. She also mentioned her roles in Diary of a Lost Girl and other films such as Beggars of Life.

Could there be a connection between Louise Brooks’ life and the fictional tale written by Nabokov? Since Wahl was the author’s classmate, is it possible that his experiences with the famed Hollywood star helped to influence his advice for his controversial classic?

The reason why this is a theory is because of Brooks’ childhood being so similar to the theme of Lolita. She made the most out of a terrible situation that changed her way of thinking and her overall sexuality when she was molested by a much older man at the age of nine.

She refers to her molester as “Mr. Flowers” in her journal entries and letters, sometimes also as “Mr. Feathers”. She stated that because of those events, she always looked for some type of domination that she could fight against. Which makes the scene in Pandora’s Box where she violently bites the hand of her lover even more powerful than it already is.

Louise Brooks’ lifelong addiction to alcohol is also linked to her abuse as a child. Taking on roles such as these that reflected her own struggles in life helped her to gain the reputation of an extremely talented actress, but at what cost to her own sanity? She is seen as a martyr by many who understand her story, and the passion that she put into each role she took helped her to gain bigger and better roles overall. Her role in the comedy A Girl in Every Port was viewed by Pabst and helped her to gain her most memorable role of Lulu in Pandora’s Box.

Whether it was based on the tragedy of one of Hollywood’s early actresses, taken from the hidden works of Salvador Dali, or simply a figment of his imagination, it is safe to say that Nabokov’s literary classic Lolita will be remembered for generations to come for its uniqueness, creativity, and the way that it has sparked conversations among literary experts.

 

What Inspired Nabokov’s Literary Classic Lolita?

“She had read Lolita and at the time being, disliked it. However, over time she began to grow fond of Nabokov’s work. She even suggested that Wahl pass along her 1951 autobiography Naked on My Goat. She described the short story as her own version of Nabokov’s Lolita.”

 

 

 

 

Unique Louise Brooks Art & Collectibles

Rising to fame during a time when America was obsessed with the glitz and glam of the dark contrasts of black and white on film, Louise Brooks stood above the rest. 

Louise brought a sense of rebellious sensuality to silent films, embodying the 1920s flapper culture that women were embracing in retaliation of social norms. 

Flappers were a social rebellion against what was expected of women in the 1920s in America. Instead of the quiet and reserved housewife that women were expected to portray, both in film and in the home, flappers presented themselves with short bob hairstyles, dark makeup, short dresses, a casualness about sex, and a penchant for cigarettes and booze. They lived as they wished, free from the expectations of men and society at large. 

Louise Brooks embraced this culture and transmogrified it onto film that remains timeless and unforgettable nearly a century later. Able to convey so much through simply a gaze or a lilting smile, Louise pushed seraphic sensuality and sophisticated sex appeal through the black and white celluloid of the 1920s. 

Raised a simple girl named Mary Louise Brooks in Wichita, Kansas, Brooks made her way to New York City, where she was a featured dancer on Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies. She was noticed by top Hollywood executives and was soon traveling to LA to begin her film career. 

However, the role that resonates most with her fans and the film world at large is a film that she was cast in, in Germany. Pandora’s Box (Die Büchse der Pandora), directed by Austrian filmmaker G.W. Pabst, is Louise Brooks’ most memorable film, where she portrays the epitome of the type of woman that is most akin to the flapper movement in both demeanor and dress. 

Her erotic and amoral portrayal on-screen in Pandora’s Box had G.W. Pabst casting Brooks as his lead once again in his next film, Diary of a Lost Girl. Again, Brooks’ sexuality and her disdain for the world of men shines through and is expertly portrayed by her intensely deep eyes and a beauty that is marred by struggles. 

Louise Brooks was an accomplished actress who lived her life on screen as she did in the world. She was a lover of the arts, and was always immersed in one of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s books. Brooks even penned a short autobiography named Naked on My Goat, a title taken from Goethe’s Faust. 

It is her ingenuity, class, and her flair for enjoying life to its fullest that we celebrate here at Vintage Brooks. We are a collection of Louise Brooks exclusive artwork, curated for her most sophisticated fans. We invite you to peruse our exclusive original artwork, celebrating the silent film star.

 

Unique Louise Brooks Art and Collectibles

“Flappers were a social rebellion against what was expected of women in the 1920s in America.”