Louise Brooks from A to Z: K for Keaton, Kansas, "Krapauer", Fritz Kortner and William Klein

 Buster Keaton in a publicity still for his film  Cops (1922)

Buster Keaton in a publicity still for his film Cops (1922)

Buster Keaton was someone who Louise got to know though Buster Collier and spent a lot of time with in California during the late 1920s.  While I could give you words on that, none would tell it so well as her own; I recommend reading her essay on Buster Keaton to get a sense of the early years and her feelings toward him.  In her later years she said that she met him again in Rochester while he was making an ad for Kodak.  She said that he didn't recognize her, and she blamed this phenomena on both his dipsomania and his inability to look back on that time in his life.  Brooks made a very telling and brutal comment to Tom Dardis (author of Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down) about an episode she witnessed of Keaton trashing his own studio bungalow with a baseball bat: "Perhaps that was what he was doing the night he took a baseball bat to the glass doors in his bungalow...trying to break out of his cage, escape to creation.  But he never made it.  He had lost his magic power over booze." (Dardis, 169)

 Louise Brooks, 8th one in from the left, in a Wichita High School class photo

Louise Brooks, 8th one in from the left, in a Wichita High School class photo

Kansas was where Louise was born and raised until age 15.  She also (in my personal favorite stage of her life) went back to Kansas for a period of a few years from 1939 to 1942 when she was, as one might say, shit out of luck.  This was the time period when she opened a dance school, was often reprimanded for being drunk and disorderly in public, was arrested for lewd cohabitation and tried to repent for her past by scrubbing floors in her family home and caring for her ailing mother.  She was practically run out of town for her behavior, which was considered unacceptable in the blue-law enforcing state.  In an excerpt from Louise's unpublished essay about Joan Crawford (which can be found in the Barry Paris biography) Louise sheds light on her view of the situation: "Having been extremely unpopular when I left Wichita - imagine, that mean freckled little Brooks girl getting into the movies! - and more so for daring to come back a failure, such incidents of additional bad publicity blackened my heart.  So while I cleaned and washed and cooked, the free part of my mind was eased by turning our conflict into a play- a sort of Eugene O'Neill thing, I called it to myself.  Naturally I was the tragic heroine, flying to the sheltered arms of my once-loving mother, now become the villain of the peace, the hypocrite unmasked.  It went on fairly well, this continuous day dream, until I got to the end - the smashing climax - when I was to denounce my mother with my righteous wrath, take up my great courage and bang out the door to reenlist in the battle of life. The curtain fell, of course, on my mother alone; broken with remorse. The trouble was, though, as my own best audience, the more I regarded this scene, the less of a hero and the more of a louse I became.  All my sympathy went to the poor woman rid at last of a vicious daughter." (Paris, 391) What beautiful and tragic insight, and those were the words that made me start researching Louise Brooks.

 

 

"Krapauer" is how Louise referred to Siegfried Kracauer, famed German film theorist and writer, in several of her letters.  

 

 

 

 Louise Brooks and Fritz Kortner in  Pandora's Box (1929)

Louise Brooks and Fritz Kortner in Pandora's Box (1929)

Fritz Kortner was the German actor who played the lead role of Dr. Schön in Pandora's Box (1929).  Brooks claimed that he didn't like her very much and that part of his passionate hatred of her is what led to the brilliant moment of his shaking Lulu (her) violently in the utility closet during their conflict scene.  He left ten black and blue fingerprints on her arms, and Pabst was "very pleased."

William Klein was one of the people who faithfully cared for Louise in her later years in Rochester.  Unfortunately, he passed away before we had a chance to speak with him, but we thank him very much for being such a good human being. He'd have to have been a saint to have done the things that he did for her, and this is evident through his interview with Barry Paris in which he reflects heavily on the good, but also on the neurotic, anxious and reverberating bad.  Age and paranoia had made Louise's mindset easily worried, and such things as loud neighbors, new technology, people visiting and even the phone bill could send her into a tailspin.  "-she worried about everything- there wasn't enough food in the refrigerator, what if something happened to Marge? And the phone bill. She made all of her calls collect. Anybody she called - the Paley Foundation, William Shawn, nieces or nephews, it was always "reverse the charges."...And even though everyone accepted, she was terrified the calls'd be charged to her. She'd sit there with this worried look on her face that'd just kill you." (Paris, 533)  

 Louise Brooks in Rochester, NY, photo courtesy of Vincent Lesh 

Louise Brooks in Rochester, NY, photo courtesy of Vincent Lesh