Louise at about age 16, circa 1923
In her day, Brooks was apparently considered a "second-tier star". We'd probably consider her a B-list celebrity if she was around today, but she became an icon over the years.
After being fired from the dance company she was hired to be a chorus girl in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1925. Once a producer saw her in the Follies, she was given a contract with Paramount. She was 19 years old.
Brooks had a reputation for being direct, and utterly unimpressed by Hollywood. But the celebrity mags seemed to love her, especially her sleek black hair. If Brooks got a mention in the fan magazines, so did her High-brow Bob. Or her square bob. Or her bangs. Her love life - including her "wild and swift" romance with director Eddie Sutherland - was the source of endless fascination and speculation.
Though half of her 14 films with Paramount are considered lost, it is her work outside of Paramount - 1929's Pandora's Box - that Brooks is most remembered for. Originally, the film bombed, and the critics hated her performance ("Louise Brooks cannot act," one said bluntly), but as time went by, critics like Kenneth Tynan recognized her alluring paradoxes:
She has run through my life like a magnetic thread - this shameless urchin tomboy, this unbroken, unbreakable porcelain filly. She is a prairie princess, equally at home in a waterfront bar and in the royal suite at Neuschwanstein; a creature of impulse, a creature of impulses, a temptress with no pretensions, capable of dissolving into a giggling fit at a peak of erotic ecstasy; amoral but totally selfless, with that sleek jet cloche of hair that rings such a peal of bells in my subconscious.When she returned to Hollywood, her career in American films was practically over. Silent film stars who wanted to stay in talkies had to make the transition fast, and she missed the opportunity by making movies in Europe for too long.
You can head on over to YouTube for a look at a rare interview with Louis Brooks in her later years.
Who would you cast to play Louise Brooks?
"The Girl in the Black Helmet" by Kenneth Tynan
"The Martyrdom of Lulu" by Dan Callahan
Photoplay Magazine (January-June 1927)
When Kenneth Met Lulu
Opening Pandora's Box by J. Hoberman