Monday, May 3, 2004

Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks

Some time ago, I came across an obscure drawing by the Polish writer Bruno Schulz (1892 - 1942) which I believe depicts Louise Brooks and Marlene Dietrich. If it is not them, then it bears a striking resemblance to the two cinematic femme fatales, Lulu and Lola.

Bruno Schulz is known for his short stories, and he is considered one of the great Polish writers of the 20th century. His brief literary career ended during World War II when he was gunned down by a German officer. John Updike, an admirer, has described the author as "one of the great transmogrifiers of the world into words." [Schulz's most famous work, The Street of Crocodiles (1934), was itself transmogrified into a 1986 film by the Brother's Quay. It is extraordinary - one of the most memorable and poetic films I have ever seen!] 

Schulz was also gifted artist. The drawing that I came across, which dates from 1930 but is now lost and only exists in reproduction, does seem to depict Brooks and Dietrich. In the title of the drawing, the two women are termed "temptresses." The standing Brooks figure is garbed in showgirl attire, a la Pandora's Box, while the Dietrich figure is seated with legs crossed, a la The Blue Angel. Perhaps I am wrong, but this image seems another link between the mythic characters of Lulu and Lola. 

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