Actress, Model, Author. She was the model the iconic 1920s "Flapper Girl" during Hollywood's silent film era. The second of four children of an upper-middle class Midwest family, she made her first public appearance at the age of four, playing a pint-sized bride in a church benefit production of "Tom Thumb's Wedding". She started taking dancing lessons at an early age, and by the age of ten, was dancing at local fairs, theaters, men's and women's clubs. By the age of eleven, she was dancing on a regular basis, performing recitals and programs at the Cherryvale Opera House. Her childhood friend was actress Vivian Vance. In 1919 at the age of thirteen, her family moved to Independence, Kansas and soon after to Wichita where her father was Kansas Assistant Attorney General. She was a smart and well-read student but never received her high school diploma. A pivotal point in her life occurred when her mother enrolled her, at the mere age of fifteen, into the famed Ruth Saint-Denis and Ted Shawn's Dance School in New York City. Compared to the other students of her age at the dance school, she was soon recognized for her advanced skills. In 1923, as the youngest dancer in her troupe, she toured by train doing one-night performances throughout the United States and Canada with Martha Graham and the Denishawn dancers. By 1925 with the beginning a new dance craze, the "Charleston", she returned to New York to become a Broadway chorus girl in George White's "Scandals"; a scantily-dressed dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies; and credited to have been the first person to dance the "Charleston" in London. Also in 1925, she signed a 5-year contract with Paramount Studios and appeared in an uncredited role in "The Streets of Forgotten Men". By the end of 1926, she had roles in six more successful silent films. She became the iconic flapper girl with her short skirts, dark bobbed hair, and a rebellious personality. Stating her voice was not appropriate for the new "talkie movies," Paramount Studios refused to give her a pay raise that others were receiving. Retaliating, she shocked the studio system by breaking her contract and leaving after thirteen movies. Gaining the attention of German director G.W. Pabst, she was cast in the lead role as Lulu in his movie "Pandora's Box" in 1929. This German movie has been hailed as a masterpiece of silent cinema. Another movie "Diary of a Lost Girl" was filmed in Germany and one in France, "Beauty Prize" before returning as a seasoned actress to her once-rejected Hollywood. At this point in her career, her acting opportunities declined as she was rejected by the film industry for major roles even with her notoriety, beauty and talent. Later in her life, she would write about these turn of events. With appearing only in B movie roles, she abandoned the cinema world in 1938 after filming a young John Wayne western, "Overland Stage Raiders". She starred in 24 films with the most successful being in the silent era; over the years, a half-a-dozen reels of these films have been destroyed or lost. Divorced twice and no children, she became somewhat a bankrupted recluse living in a one-bedroom apartment in Rochester, New York while earning a living doing radio spots, being a professional ballroom dancer, or department store saleslady. In the 1950s when a revival of the silent film era opened in the film industry, she emerged as a respected, articulate historian and writer. She wrote over twenty articles for periodicals about her colleagues such as Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. These were translated into German, French and Italian and distributed world-wide. Her five-page essay "Gish and Garbo: The Executive War on Stars" was first published England in "Sight and Sound', Winter Edition 1958-1959, and later in Japan, Portugal and in part in the "New York Post", June 1982. In 1979, she was profiled by the film writer Kenneth Tynan in his "New Yorker" magazine essay, "The Girl in The Black Helmet"; the title was an allusion to her famous bobbed hairstyle. In 1982, three years before her death, she published her book, "Lulu in Hollywood", which was a collection of essays reminiscing her career. She was bedridden for many years with emphysema and arthritis especially in her legs, which may have from the trauma of dancing for years. A website launched in 1995, the Louise Brooks Society is a community of individuals determine to preserve any items relating to Louise Brooks. Mostly recently, Laura Moriarty's historical novel, "The Chaperone", tells the story, from a nanny's point-of-view, of the fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks going to New York City to study dance.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Albert Edward Sutherland