Louise from A to Z: J for James Card, Jack Garner, Jack the Ripper and Jacumba
Delving into the relationship that Louise had with James Card is not something that can be done in a paragraph or in general without having been a part of it, because no love story ever is that way. Card was a hugely important figure in the life of Louise Brooks. He was the founder of the Motion Pictures Collection at the Eastman Museum and held the spot of Senior Curator for years. He had always been fascinated by Louise and was one day taken by surprise in discovering that his friend, John Springer, was living across the hall from her on First Avenue; Card had previously believed her to be dead. Upon obtaining this information he immediately wrote her and the two quickly developed a close relationship. Card would revive Brooks by taking her away from her "grubby hole" of an apartment and moving her to Rochester to see her films and write. However, there was more to it than that, as the two began to have an affair, and, according to him, she had expected him to make a break from his family for her. This did not happen, and the accounts after that are varied. Card felt threatened by her constant drinking and feared that he would fall into the same habit, but many have said in interviews that he was already at this point without her help. There is also considerable evidence, described in her letters and from our interviews with those that knew Card when he was with Louise, suggesting that he was both verbally and physically abusive to her and broke all of her fingers and many of her teeth. She would write in her journal "He's the guy who blacks my eye" on March 28, 1958, and then in April she writes, "April - 14- 1958 - The Last Black Eye." While I cannot say for sure that she wrote this about Card, the timeline would suggest that this may be a possibility. She often referred to his brilliance, and he was a brilliant man with a great mind, but later admits to Jan Wahl in a letter (many of which can be found in his wonderful book, Dear Stinkpot: Letters from Louise Brooks) from October, 1960, that "After 5 years of having subjected myself to his jerking malice and degradation and the confusion of a cesspool of lies, it is like diving into a clean cool pool to be free of him..." (Wahl, 57). Despite all of this, she would later write him that she loved him and would inscribe a copy of Lulu in Hollywood that she gave him with some of her most touching and intimate of her written words: "To Jimmy Card - Who saved me from First Avenue and the 59th Street Bridge in New York and brought me to Rochester where I could write in peace and quiet - All my love- Louise." It's touching because it's true.
Jack Garner is the former Nation Chief Film Critic for Gannett Newspapers and was a devoted caretaker to Louise Brooks. Jack took incredibly good care of her during her later years when she was crippled and confined to her apartment. My favorite story that he told us was about how Louise, in her finicky fashion, had called him late at night and asked him to come over because she had dropped a paper clip under the bed and insisted that he remove it. He also spoke of the Infant of Prague statuette that she kept near her bed (the head was broken off and glued back on by her- makes you wonder how it got that way), and said she "was an obsessive, insane, wild and crazy annotator of anything she ever read...if you see a book in her possession, every single page, on the borders of the pages, will have something written."
*Spoiler Alert* Jack the Ripper was the man who murdered her character, Lulu, in the film Pandora's Box (1929). In the film, he bores her in the stomach with a knife found on the adjacent table. When asked about this by Kenneth Tynan in later years, she claimed that the knife should have ended up in her vagina. When one considers the storyline and Wedekind's actual play, she's probably right.
Jacumba, California, is not only a place that sounds like a Star Wars character name but also the location where Louise's favorite of her films, Beggars of Life, was shot in 1928. To read more about this, I recommend reading "On Location with Billy Wellman" from Lulu in Hollywood.