Louise Brooks from A to Z: O for On Location with Billy Wellman, Overland Stage Raiders and José Ortega y Gasset
On Location with Billy Wellman is the name of one of Louise's most prized essays, written about her time working on the set of Beggars of Life (1928). The anecdotes that are most pervasive in the story are touching, as they speak of a set that is comprised of pranksters, boisterous hobo actors and friendships in a isolated desert. However, it also touches upon some darker themes in Brooks' life, in particular dealing with those who shamed her for her modern views on sexual behavior, by rehashing a story of a one night stand with an indiscreet stunt man. Brooks' also ends the essay on a note that seems to highlight the universal idea of the early man's view of women's sexuality, and reading this moment can provoke a visceral feeling because, unfortunately, these male sentiments have been experienced by many women today. Louise describes a meeting a month after shooting with a friend of hers from the set, Jack Chapin: "He entered my sitting room, looking strange and formal, dressed in a blue coat and white pants, his red curls slicked down with some strongly scented oil. He did not talk; he did not drink the Bacardi cocktail I mixed for him. He sat on one sofa before the fireplace, staring at me sitting on the opposite sofa, and then, without warning, leaped at me and grappled me in his arms. Too astonished to be angry, I shoved him away, saying, 'Are you trying to make love to me?' 'Why not?' he said furiously, jumping up and backing away to the door to make his exit. 'You go to bed with everyone else- why not me?'" (Brooks, 31) I wonder if Louise, with her timeless mind and ideas ahead of her era, knew how true this would still ring in some situations today, and what clarity of thought and mind she must have had to have been able to see this for what it was in 1928 when few others did.
Overland Stage Raiders was a B western that Louise starred in during the year 1938 and proved to be her last Hollywood film ever made. Her co-star was John Wayne, who she referred to as being "the hero of all mythology miraculously brought to life." (Paris, 838) For this and her other western roles, they completely changed her appearance: "Hollywood decided to reinvent me with longer hair, minus bangs. My prominent straight eyebrows were removed and new ones were arched in. A Joan Crawford mouth was crayoned in over my own. I hate to confess I allowed them to do it. The choice was to do that or be a call girl. You'd be amazed at how many girls did become one. That's why I fled back to Kansas to get myself together."
José Ortega y Gasset was a Spanish philosopher whom Louise read a lot of. She is caught quoting his wise words in an interview that can now be seen in the documentary Looking for Lulu (1998): "Ortega said we are all lost. We're all shipwrecked- but the most intelligent of us learn. In other words, we are not masters of our fate, everything happens by chance, and it's the very people who think they have everything in control and they are running everything who get into the most trouble."