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Letting It All Hang Out.
rmax30482328 May 2016
As these biographies go, this one is pretty unusual. Mostly we see a live interview with an aged but still vivacious Louise Brooks, whose fame in the world of cinema rested largely on one movie -- "Pandora's Box," directed by George Pabst in Germany.

Let's see. Brooks was born in some tiny town in Kansas in 1906, and this interview appeared in 1984, which makes her seventy-eight years old during the shooting. She neither looks nor sounds eighty. She's pale. Her long dark hair is pulled back and her lips are a flaming crimson gash.

She's quick witted, expressive, cheerful, and altogether winning. And, boy, does she let it all hang out. She is to J. D. Salinger as matter is to anti-matter. Brooks seems anxious to tell her colorful anecdotes but she doesn't hog the camera or demolish her interviewer. She rolls along in her sunny way, mentioning lesbians, describing how she pacified an angry Pabst by spectacularly satisfying him in bed. And much more, with nary a descent into street language.

She left Thanatopolis, Kansas, by learning to dance and joining the Ziegfield follies. One or two small parts in American movies and she was invited to Germany by Pabst to film "Lulu." It was a classic story of a girl who self destruct and it was pretty sexy for its time. Some German actresses were indignant about the casting of an American who spoke no German but it was a silent movie after all and it established Louise Brooks as the beautiful actress with that page boy haircut or whatever it's called.

She made a few more films in Germany but her affair with Pabst collapsed and so did her career. She returned to a Hollywood that was agonizing over the change to sound and had no time for stars of overseas films. She made a brief appearance as John Wayne's friend in one of the poverty row "Three Mesquiteers" series.

She wound up in a crummy apartment on E. 59th Street in New York, drunk, shabby, bloated. A friend rehabilitated her and brought her to Rochester in upstate New York, where she cleaned up and lived until she died.

It's a thorough biography, given the strictures of time. Mostly we see Director Richard Leacock sitting politely across the table from the animated lady, with occasional comments from two or three other talking heads. I said it was "thorough" and as an example of what I meant, I'll just mention that they dug up the Russian émigré who was an assistant director on "Pandora's Box."

I've only seen her in that single film, when she was at her peak, and I didn't consider her beautiful in any way that could be described as interesting. The movies of the period were filled with attractive women and she was one of them. One of so many attractive women -- but what a woman.
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