Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Louise Brooks: Celluoid Sylph

For many film buffs there is no other woman, and that includes Dietrich, Garbo and even Monroe, who in the words of the English critic Kenneth Tynan's projected a more "unrepentant hedonism". I'm inclined to agree. Tynan dubbed her "The Girl in the Black Helmet" which alluded to her unique and iconic bobbed hair.  And it was Tynan's article about her in The New Yorker magazine in the 1980s  which resurrected people's interest in her and her films which include "Pandora's Box" (1929),  "Diary of a Lost Girl" (1929) and "Prix de Beaute" (1930). But it is "Pandora's Box" directed by the great German director Georg Wilhelm Pabst which remains her most illustrious and admired role in which she portrays the heroine ,Lulu, whose amorality and sensuality is ultimately the death of her.

Her name, "Louise Brooks", is missing quite a few numbers. These include 4,7, 8 and 9. It's no wonder she led such a peripatetic and unstable life. Without the 8, she lacked money and without a 4 she lacked  practicality. Not a great combination as you wind your way through life's vicissitudes.  The 7 indicates that she also may have lacked humility and spirituality which might have made  life a bit easier for her. That is, she needed to cultivate patience and sensitivity towards others. But everything I've read about her seems to indicate that she did not "suffer fools gladly".  In fact, it was her impulsivity and recklessness that destroyed her fledgling and promising career in Hollywood. The final straw for Hollywood was when Louise turned down the lead role in "Public Enemy" which starred James Cagney. The female lead went to Jean Harlow. Louise went to Europe, instead, to be with her lover.

When all is said and done, Louise Brooks was an utter original who flaunted authority and the status quo. She was a female rebel in a time when women were punished for being irreverent. No one was going to tell her what to do, even Hollywood. Some would say that she paid dearly for her individuality. After all, she sacrificed a lucrative career making pictures.  I don't think she would share that opinion. I think for Louise, what counted at the end of the day is that she bowed for no man and that she did it her way, flaws and all.

In ending, I picked a card for Louise and I drew the Hermit the 9th card in the Major Arcana of the tarot. How fitting! After all, the name "Louise" corresponds to a 9 and in her own way she was "hermit". Not in the traditional sense of being a recluse, but she most definitely was a "loner" who marched to her own tune always searching, searching for an even brighter "light". As she wrote about herself in her later years, "I must confess to a lifelong curse:  My own failure as a social creature."

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