not acting, in “doing nothing,” Louise Brooks became one of the most
modern and effective of actors, projecting a presence that could be startling.
Among those who know the movies, It might be true to say that Brooks is one
actor who still, to this day, inspires deep affection. She is so simple, so
direct, sothere.Watching her fourth-billed in
“The Show-Off” (1926), I watched her effortlessly steal every scene
she was in. The others were there in front of the camera. She seemed actually
in the scenes.
don’t mean to suggest that in “not acting” Brooks was wooden or
robotic. There was no doubt when she was expressing sadness, happiness,
enthusiasm, fear. But she suggested an unusual degree of self-possession; in
the middle of a happy scene, the others might act out mirth, but her reaction
would be more one of regarding it, recognizing it. Her job as an actress wasn’t
to lead us in the proper reaction. It was to observe its reality.
hair styles were not for her. She had that crisp pageboy bob that Vidal Sassoon
pilfered 25 years later. She had those strong, straight eyebrows, unlike the
coy arches of her contemporaries. She was so slender and fit she seemed poised
for flight. The most extraordinary things happened to her in her best films,
and instead of visibly reacting and telegraphing emotions, she acted as the
instrument to transmit them to us. She encourages identification to an unusual
1928 she was one of the best known movie stars in the world, but she was fed up
with Hollywood and too smart for the way the industry treated actresses. She
was brought to Berlin by Pabst, who was tired of overeager actresses; he had
worked in 1925 with Greta Garbo, another restrained performer. Together they
made two of the greatest of silent films. They were both scandalous for their
portrayals of lesbianism and prostitution, and after returning to Hollywood she
offended the sensibilities of a company town by turning down the lead in
“Public Enemy” opposite James Cagney. She made several unsuccessful
films in the 1930s, and then, she writes in her book, “I found that the
only well-paying career open to me, as an unsuccessful actress of thirty-six,
was that of a call girl.” One of her clients was William S. Paley, the
founder of CBS, who sent her a check every month for the rest of her life.