It’s been 25 years since Louise Brooks died (time flies!), and so, per her final instructions, the private journals kept by the deliriously hot midlevel silent film star turned devastatingly acerbic first-person critic of old Hollywood have been opened, and are at last being read by the staff of the George Eastman House, the Rochester film archive where Brooks, having been plucked from obscurity late in life, rewatched many of the films that she would write about in the essential Lulu in Hollywood.
She didn’t begin keeping the diaries until 1956, when she moved to Rochester to be near the Eastman House at the invitation of its director, so we shouldn’t get our hopes up for too much sex. However, she appears to have used the journal, at least in part, as a screening log. Per Variety, here’s some initial published excerpts concerning two of Hollywood’s other most reclusive, iconic beauties:
-Greta Garbo, in 1930’s Anna Christie, “strains terribly… Is made to read line on top of line without pauses for mental transitions”
-In Mitchell Leisen’s 1942 The Lady Is Willing, Marlene “Dietrich’s lids, drooped by the heavy false eye-lashes give her eyes the expression of a puzzled bloodhound… [she’s] still fascinating as a personality, extravagantly healthy, happy, amoral and consciousless.”
-Upon watching herself in one of her last film roles, 1936’s empty saddles, Brooks described her own voice as having a “wide range, dynamic, rich, ‘cultured'”
Lulu in Hollywood‘s a great read partly for the gossip and non, je ne regrette rien attitude espoused by a girl who was burned more than most by the Hollywood meat grinder and more than smart enough to know it. But Brooks’s gifts as an observer shouldn’t be overlooked: she’s great at distilling the emotional essence of a performer (abetted by offscreen anecdote), getting at who they could be onscreen—and who the Hollywood system made them be. The L eagerly awaits further jottings from the diaries of Louise Brooks. A handwriting sample would also be swell…