Louise from A to Z: H for Hearst, Hawks, Hedda and Hollywood
William Randolph Hearst, the publication tycoon, had somewhat of a major presence in Louise's life due to her many visits to San Simeon, her acquaintance with Marion Davies and, of course, through her dear friend Pepi Lederer. Louise was a welcomed guest at Hearst Castle, but did speak of Marion's constant fear of pretty women that might tear away Hearst. Brooks wrote that he approached her reading in one of his spectacular libraries once and, finding herself petrified of being discovered by Marion and banished, dropped her book and ran from the room.
It was largely because of a Howard Hawks film that Louise Brooks obtained her starring role in Pandora's Box (1929). The story would have it that GW Pabst saw Brooks in A Girl in Every Port (1928) and began contacting Paramount, he being convinced that this woman should play his Lulu. Brooks spoke fondly of Hawks, recalling a story of him and his behavior during production: "I mean, when we were shooting, diving into the tank, it was a freezing cold night on the Fox lot, and Howard was walking around in a very smart tweed jacket, and I was shivering with the cold coming out of this damn greasy tank, and he smiled at me and he said, 'Is it cold?' He was just [like] someone who had wandered onto the set and [was] being sympathetic, but I liked him very much as a man and a director." He, likewise, spoke well of her in future: "Just think of how modern she looks. Oh god, she was a good looking girl....I wanted a different type of girl. I didn't want what they'd been playing. I wanted a new type. I hired Louise Brooks because she's very sure of herself, she's very analytical, she's very feminine- but she's damn good and sure she's going to do what she wants to do. I could use her today. She was way ahead of her time. And she's a rebel. I like her, you know. I like rebels. I like people you can look at and you remember who they are."
Hedda Gabler is a play written by Henrik Ibsen, and when Brooks spoke of it in an interview with Theodore Price in 1972 it was in relation to her mother: "She is an ardent admirer of Henrik Ibsen’s plays. Yet, when she talks about one of his most traumatic heroines; Louise Brooks re-interprets his Hedda in light of her own experiences as a child. 'I remember school in 1912,' she begins to unwind the tale of her childhood. 'All those stupid children sitting in a hot schoolroom. It was terrible. It was then that I learned to read- ‘Nicholas Nicholby.’ And my mother was so brilliant and so beautiful. And Hedda Gabler belonged to her own group. You see, Hedda has no way of expressing herself. She was lost, she was going to have a baby. I remember my mother saying, ‘I grew up the oldest of nine children. I bore them – and now I’ve got you four screaming brats!’ Don’t you see? Here’s Hedda. My mother was born in 1884, and she died very young, at age sixty.'"
If you really want to know how Louise felt about Hollywood, I recommend reading both Lulu in Hollywood, her pseudo-memoir, and Louise Brooks by Barry Paris, for it is impossible to inscribe all of the feelings that she had about that place into one paragraph in a blog post. However, I will leave you with the one quote that seems to stick out most about her time in Hollywood, and that somewhat sums up her mentality on the issue: "Staring down at my name in lights on the marquee of the Wilshire Theatre was like reading an advertisement of my isolation. Some day, I thought, I would run away from Hollywood forever. Not just the temporary running away I did after each of my films, but forever."