Sunday, October 31, 2010

The spooky corners of Louise Brooks’ career

(adapted from my article on

Since it's Halloween, I thought I might shine a light on a few of the spooky corners and "dark shadows" of Louise Brooks' career.

Because she typically played flappers and femme fatales, Brooks is not thought of as an actress associated with horror films or monster movies. However, there are a few interesting intersections between the actress's career and the gothic genres.

Did you know, for example, that Louise Brooks was considered for the title role in The Bride of Frankenstein? Director James Whale thought to cast Brooks or Brigitte Helm (the robot from Metropolis), before finally settling on Elsa Lanchester. The monster demanded a mate - though I think Brooks would have been a bit too sexy and a bit too animated for this big lug.

Along with Frankenstein, their is also a connection with Dracula. One interesting intersection revolves around The Diary of a Lost Girl.This controversial 1905 German bestseller by Margarete Bohme, the basis for the 1929 Louise Brooks film of the same name, was translated into English and published in the UK in 1907.

At the time, its sensational story line was praised by some and attacked by others. Among those wishing to ban it - according to the New York Times of December 11, 1907 was Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Curiously though, the dedicatee of Dracula, a now forgotten though once wildly popular novelist named Hall Caine, praised the book. He described this saddest of modern books as the “poignant story of a great-hearted girl who kept her soul alive amidst all the mire that surrounded her poor body.”

I will end this morbid blog with two splendidly gothic images from my new Louise Brooks edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl. The image on the left is the cover of the 1907 German edition of Bohme's book. And the image on the right is an illustration from a vintage Polish edition of the book.

Check out my article on to learn about other connections - like that with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Know of others? Please post in the comments.


  1. liking it...
    lets not forget cinematic death at the hands of jack the ripper-
    in a spooky corner of london, with dark shadows to the max.

  2. I wonder if Brooks ever did anything for trick-or-treaters? Perhaps her best opportunity, beyond Wichita, was 50 years ago (1960). That October she moved from a mansion at the Rochester city limits -- literally on the other side of the tracks -- into a regular house in the heart of tony East End. Alas (reported the D&C), "a steady rain" on the 31st spoiled the spookery. (1936 Olympian Jesse Owens, incidentally, was in town for a GOP rally at a Baptist church.) ... I wonder if a subsequent tenant there has ever rigged up a rear-projection of Lulu lifting her widow's veil, for the kids when they come to the door. Happy Haluluween!

    ***George Eastman House will show "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" two Tuesdays from now, as part of a series of six silent features. The write-up for the series in the Dryden Theatre's calendar is accompanied by a generous 2½-by-3 still of Brooks and Vera Sisson; and Brooks is described as a "silent-era superstar". (The OED, incidentally, traces that word back to 1925's "Sorrell & Son", by Warwick Deeping: "You wouldn't expect a couple of cinema super-stars to be running away from publicity.")


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