Real name: Mary Louise Brooks
Birthdate: November 14, 1906
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Louise Brooks (14 November 1906 – 8 August 1985) was an American dancer, showgirl, and silent film actress. She became, at the end of her life, a writer and critic of the silent film era.
Paramount attempted to use the coming of sound films to strongarm the actress, but she called the studio's bluff. It was not until 30 years later that this rebellious move would come to be seen as arguably the most savvy of her career, securing her immortality as a silent film legend and independent spirit. Unfortunately, while her initial snubbing of Paramount alone would not have finished her in Hollywood altogether, her refusal after returning from Germany to come back to Paramount for sound retakes of The Canary Murder Case (1929) irrevocably placed her on an unofficial blacklist. As mentioned in the documentary Louise Brooks: Looking For Lulu, actress Margaret Livingston was hired to dub Brooks' voice for the film and the studio claimed that Brooks' voice was unsuitable for sound.
Her many lovers from years before had included a young William S. Paley, the founder of CBS. According to Louise Brooks: Looking For Lulu, Paley provided a small monthly stipend to Brooks for the rest of her life, and according to the documentary this stipend kept her from committing suicide at one point.
Brooks is considered one of the first naturalistic actors in film, her acting being subtle and nuanced compared to many other silent performers. The close-up was just coming into vogue with directors, and her almost hypnotically beautiful face was perfect for this new technique. Brooks had always been very self-directed, even difficult, and was notorious for her salty language, which she didn't hesitate to use whenever she felt like it. In addition, she had made a vow to herself never to smile on stage unless she felt compelled to, and although the majority of her publicity photos show her with a neutral expression, she had a dazzling smile. By her own admission, she was a sexually liberated woman, not afraid to experiment, even posing nude for "art" photography, and her liaisons with many film people were legendary, although much of it is speculation.
For her Oscar-winning film role in the 1972 movie musical Cabaret, Liza Minnelli was coached by her father, Vincente Minnelli, to fashion her character's appearance on Louise Brooks.
The 1986 film Something Wild, directed by Jonathan Demme, features a main character played by actress Melanie Griffith, who sports Louise Brooks' trademark hairstyle, and goes by the moniker Lulu.
In 1991, the synth-pop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released "Pandora's Box (It's a Long, Long Way)", and the collage-pop band Soul Coughing released "St. Louise Is Listening" in 1998, both inspired by Brooks' life.