Sunday, May 6, 2012

Louise Brooks as a high school sophomore

The above image comes from the 1922 edition of The Wichitan, the high school year book of Wichita High School in Witchita, Kansas. This particular image depicts "Sophomore A Girls," in which Louise Brooks can be seen as the eighth girl from the left in the front row. Brooks (then only 14 or 15 years old - can't be sure when this pic was taken) is nicely dressed and is holding a purse. Her hands are clasped, and her arms are interlocked with the girls on either side of her. Perhaps they were close friends? Here is a closeup of the future actress.

As this 1922 yearbook is largely devoted to the senior class, there is only one other image of Brooks found in the annual. Brooks is shown as a member of that year's student council. (She can be found on the second row from the bottom, in the middle.) According to the yearbook, 48 boys and girls were chosen from the school's three classes to constitute the Student Council. Their work was carried on by committee, with their big project being the management of the high school bond issue parade.

I would guess this image of Brooks was taken near the beginning of the school year, perhaps around the time the student council was formed. Whenever it was taken, the dramatic flair found in Brooks hair was subdued by the time the Sophomore class picture was taken outside the school.

Speaking of hair, there is also an amusing pictorial feature in the yearbook of students who wore their hair bobbed and those who didn't. It was a big issue then, just as in the 1960's students wore their hair long or short. Brooks is not included among the "Bobbies," who are subdivided into "Buster Browns," "Cherubs," and "Baby Blondes."

One other interesting and amusing picture found in the yearbook depicts a male student dressed up as Charlie Chaplin - complete with cane, bowler and mustache.... Some three years later, Brooks would enter into a summer long affair with the actual actor. There are other interesting bits to gleam from the yearbook, like the comedic depictions of flappers, and the advertising section in the back with an advertisement for the Palace Theater - "Wichita's Most Popular Photoplay House."

By the time the 1922 edition of The Wichitan was issued, Brooks along with a chaperone would leave for New York City where she joined the Denishawn Dance Company, then America's leading dance troupe. Her journey to NYC is told in fictionalized form in a swell new novel by Kansas writer Laura Moriarty. Her book, which comes out in June, is called The Chaperone.

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