Sunday, March 24, 2013

Louise Brooks and the Missouri Review

Seemingly, The Missouri Review has a thing for Louise Brooks. . . .  My writer friend, Lisa K. Buchanan, was kind enough to give me her copy of the Fall 2012 issue of The Missouri Review. She did so because, unbeknownst to me, there was a BIG article about Louise Brooks in this distinguished literary journal. The article, an illustrated essay which runs 25 pages, is titled "The Thoroughly Modern World of Louise Brooks." It is by Kristine Sommerville.

The theme of this particular issue of The Missouri Review is "risk." Here is how the journal introduces Sommerville's essay: "Finally, the life and career of dancer and silent screen star Louise Brooks is a paradigm of risk, especially in art. As a young girl in Kansas, Brooks fearlessly pursued modern dance. When she was barely out her teens, her obvious talent and unique good looks caught the attention of Hollywood. Paramount put her under contract before the other studios could get their hands on her and cast her as the prototypical flapper. The risk she’s most remembered for and that ultimately made her career is her flight to Weimar Germany to work with G.W. Pabst in silent films—most notably his adaptation of Pandora’s Box—while Hollywood studios were racing to make talkies. Later in life, forgotten or ignored by the film industry, Brooks bravely made a second successful career as a film historian."

I like the use of the quote by Tennessee Williams on the first page of the piece, "People who are beautiful make their own laws."

Interestingly, this is not the first time The Missouri Review has run a major piece about Louise Brooks. Back in 1983, the journal ran "Lulu in Rochester: Self-Portrait of an Anti-Star" by Robert McNamara. "In 1928 — at the age of 22 — Louise Brooks gave one of the best performances in the silent cinema as Lulu, an amoral woman of pleasure whose character had fascinated German artists since the 1890s. Director G.W. Pabst had searched for his star all over Europe, and he was ready to sign Marlene Dietrich when he heard that Louise Brooks, a refugee from Cherryvale, Kansas, a former Ziegfield girl and rising Paramount star, was willing to take the role. As Brooks recalls, contemporary critics complained that her performance was an utter blank: 'Louise Brooks cannot act. She does not suffer. She does nothing.' But, this was precisely the point."

The Missouri Review is, quite simply, one of the best literary journals in the world,” says Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and Louise Brooks devotee Robert Olen Butler. Copies of The Missouri Review may be ordered through the journal's website at

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