Louise Brooks from A to Z: B for Books, Booze, Breezy and Berlin
Books - “I must return to my books” writes Louise in her 1979 planner after a particularly distressing spat with another building resident. In her journals, she has a section devoted to “Brooks Books,” under which she has listed Zuleika Dobson, Anna Karenina, South Wind, and Crome Yellow. In a later notebook, she writes, “I was not fit to be an actress because of my passion for books and learning which necessarily puts you in isolation - torn from the world of talk.” And then, of course, there is her famous quotation from Lulu in Hollywood: “Our house back in Wichita- a fourteen room gray structure - was literally falling down with books….Father’s was basically an English Victorian library, stocked with Dickens, Thackeray, Tennyson, Carlyle, John Stewart Mill and Darwin. Among the American authors were Emerson, Hawthorne, and Mark Twain. Goethe was the only foreign-language genius represented. All these books I read with delight, not caring in the least that I understood little of what I read.” -Louise Brooks,9
Booze - As was the case for most people who lived through the Prohibition Era, Louise was fond of alcohol consumption. She would later say that her dipsomania was a result of alcoholism being an unacknowledged trend in her younger years, particularly amongst her peers. In an interview with author and film historian Dan Callahan in November of this year, he made a statement that further emphasized her point, saying, “We have to remember, though, too, this was a period when people were drinking- heavily. The Prohibition Era, the thirties and forties - everyone was drinking enough to be, and you could say, they’re all alcoholics, but they would not have seen it that way.”
"Breezy" is the nickname lovingly given to Louise by her dear friend and caretaker, Jack Garner, Former National Chief Film Critic of Gannett Newspapers (although she never knew it). I heard the name doing my second-ever interview with Jack, and the irony is such that it has stuck to her like glue ever since.
Berlin is where Louise traveled with her then lover, George Preston Marshall, to make Pandora’s Box in the late 1920s, instead of renewing her contract at Paramount; a bold move on her part that worked out in her favor.