Louise Brooks Overview:

Legendary actress, Louise Brooks, was born Mary Louise Brooks on Nov 14, 1906 in Cherryvale, KS. Brooks died at the age of 78 on Aug 8, 1985 in Rochester, NY and was laid to rest in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, Monroe County, NY.

Louise Brooks

Early Life

Louise Brooks was born Mary Louise Brooks on November 14th, 1906 in the small town of Cherryville, Kansas. Her father, Leonard, was busy lawyer with little time for his children while her mother, Myra, was more of the artistic type. She participated in Chautauqua Movement, an adult education/self-improvement movement, played Debussy for her child and installed in her child a lifelong passion for literature, art, and music. Brooks would lose herself in books for hours at a time, teleporting away from her small town and into the world. She quickly became enthralled with growing medium of film, as well, letting the silver screen feed her imagination of a life outside of Kansas.

The young Brooks began entertaining at a young with dance being her chosen medium. Throughout her childhood she performed at various venues and events in Kansas and  could be seen dancing at weddings, county fairs, community gatherings and local halls.

While her small town, middle class childhood may have seemed fairly idyllic from the outside, Brook's life was profoundly shaped by an early childhood trauma. At the age 9 she was sexually abused by a neighbor she referred to as "Mr. Flowers". She later said the assault had a lifelong affect on her psyche, making her feel as if she incapable of love as it was always intertwined with the need to be dominated.

Early Dance Career

Eventually the Brooks family moved to the Wichita in order to find more opportunities. There, the young Louise was able study with more experienced dance instructors. Brooks' dedication to her art form grew by the minute. She soaked in every opportunity that came her way, eventually traveling to see the great ballot star Anna Pavlova and then the famed Denishawn Dance Company, whom she was able to meet backstage. The meeting was a pivotal moment in her life. At the age of 15 she dropped out of school, moved to New York City and joined the Denishawn Dance Company. She toured coast to coast with the company and even went north to Canada. In her second season with  Denishawn, she was promoted to feature role opposite the company's cofounder, Ted Shawn. It was quite a feat for the 17year-old Brooks. However, as quickly as her career with the company began, it ended. Due to her perceived poor attitude, she was fired from the Company. Ruth St. Denis, the founder of the company stated "I am dismissing you from the company because you want life handed to you on a silver salver."

Following her dismissal from Denishawn, Brooks called her pal Barbara Bennett who helped her get a job as a chorus girl for the George White Scandals. This was followed by an engagement with the 1925 Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. She then traveled to Europe, performing in London and Paris. Around this time she caught the eye of two powerful men. The first was Charlie Chaplin, who was in New York for the premiere of The Gold Rush. The pair had short affair that amount to a summer fling. The other was Paramount Pictures Producer Walter Wanger. Impressed with her work with the Ziegfeld Follies, he offered the young dancer a five-year contract. Brooks accepted the offer and soon began her new life in Hollywood.

Film Career

Brooks made her screen debut with an uncredited role in the crime drama The Street of Forgotten Men.  She then appeared in the comedy The American Venus. Over the next couple years, she was cast in a series of comedies such as It's the Old Army Game, A Social Celebrity and Evening Clothes. In 1928 she was cast as the Vamp archetype in the Howard Hawks action/adventure film A Girl In Every Port, which solidified her position as one of Hollywood's leading flappers and caught the eye of filmmakers across the pond. She soon became something of a trendsetter as women across American began copying her distinctive bobbed hairstyle.

That year she was also cast early, experimental sound film Beggars of Life. In the film Brooks played an abused foster child named Nancy, who kills her foster father in a moment of desperation then has to live her life on the run. Many contemporary film scholars consider this to be her best America role. Although her career was progressing smoothly, Brooks was quickly tiring of Hollywood. German director G.W Pabst, who was impressed by her modern style and screen presence, invited Brooks to Europe in order to collaborate. When Paramount refused to give her the raise she was promised, the decision was simple. After finishing her work on the film The Canary Murder Case, she packed her bag and headed across the Atlantic to Europe.


Upon her arrival in Germany, Brooks immediately began work on the G.W Pabst film Pandora's Box. In the film, Brooks plays Lulu, a seductive, reckless young woman whose hedonistic ways eventually bring ruin not only to her, but also to those she loves. The films frank depiction of sexuality, lesbianism, and human behavior was ahead of its time. Although the film is now praised on one of the greatest silent features of the era, upon its release many critics gave it a lukewarm reception. She worked with Pabst again the next year in the film Diary of a Lost Girl. Much like Pandora's Box, the film was criticized and heavily censored due to its frank depictions of sexuality.

Around this time Paramount requested Brooks return to American to do some pick-up shoot for the film The Canary Murder Case. Because sound film was becoming the new standard in Hollywood, most studios decided to reshoot any of their unreleased silent films to remain on the talking pictures bandwagon. Brooks, enjoying the liberated atmosphere of Europe, refused to return and thus place herself on Hollywood's unofficial blacklist. She made one more film Europe, Miss Europe, which was filmed in France, directed by the Italian Augusto Genina and produced by the German G.W Pabst. After that, she headed back to America.

Post Film Life

Brooks returned to Hollywood in 1931. Although she managed to get work in the film God's Gift to Women and It Pays to Advertise, they didn't get much notice. Her blacklisting was still in effect and very few people were willing to hire the seemingly difficult actress. William Wellman, who worked with her on Beggars of Life, remembering her strong performance and commanding screen presence, wanted her to star in his upcoming gangster flick The Public Enemy. Brooks, however, refused the role due to her contempt for Hollywood culture. The role that would make Jean Harlow a star turned out to be Brooks final nail in the coffin of her acting career.

In 1932 Brooks declared bankruptcy. She returned to dancing to make a living. In the mid-1930s she toured the country as ballroom dancer then expanded out into nightclubs, roadhouses and theaters. She attempted a Hollywood comeback in the late 1930s but the best role she got was opposite a young John Wayne in the low budget 1938 Western Overland Stage Raiders.  She eventually returned to Wichita, but did not receive a warm welcome. After self-publishing a booklet titled The Fundamentals of Ballroom Dancing, Louise return to New York City. For a short time she worked on the radio, then as a gossip columnist but ultimately found long-term employment as sales clerk and then as call girl.

Revival and Later Life

After two decades out of the limelight, French film historians and critics rediscovered her film. Film Archivist Henri Langlois had a particular interest in her films, showing casing them at famed Cinematheque during his 60th anniversary of film exhibition. This revival of Brooks' film ushered in a new era for Brooks. She was contacted by the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, who invited the reclusive actress to move to Rochester and gain access to its world famous film collection. She took them up on their offer and moved upstate. There, she began watching their extensive collection and started writing. Her essays and articles would be featured in many of the leading film journals such as Sight and Sound, Cahiers du Cinema and Focus on Film.

In her twilight years, Brooks gave the occasional interview, appearing in the film Memories of Berlin: The Twilight of Weimar Culture but for the most part lived a quiet life in upstate, New York, watching films and writing.

Louise Brooks died on of a heart attack on August 8th, 1985 in Rochester, New York. She was 78 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Brooks was never nominated for an Academy Award.

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Louise Brooks Quotes:

Lulu: Smoking is forbidden here.

Lulu: MONEY! All they want is money!

Lulu: You'll have to kill me to get rid of me.

read more quotes from Louise Brooks...

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