Friday, May 17, 2013

Louise Brooks and F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is all the rage. So now might be a good time to look at Louise Brooks' connections with the famous Jazz Age novelist. Brooks, it could be said, shouldn't be on the cover of the three books by Fitzgerald pictured above. But she is. 

Tender is the Night (Penguin, 1999) 
Bernice Bobs Her Hair (Penguin, 1990) 
 Flappers and Philosophers (Penguin 2010)

That's because Fitzgerald was actually smitten with another actress of the silent era, Lois Moran, who served as the basis for a character or two in Fitzgerald's celebrated fiction. It is widely believed that Moran and Fitzgerald had a brief affair during the 1920s, despite their difference in years. (For more on the actress, see Richard Buller's outstanding biography A Beautiful Fairy Tale: The Life of Actress Lois Moran, from 2005.)

Brooks and Fitzgerald did meet at twice, at a couple of parties, but apparently didn't leave much of an impression on each other. Instead, it was the similarly bobbed actress Colleen Moore about which Fitzgerald famously said, "I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble." (For more on this actress, see Jeff Codori's fine biography Colleen Moore: A Biography of the Silent Film Star, from 2010.)

Nevertheless, Brooks image has become closely identified with the Jazz Age and its most famous writer. At least three other recent editions of Fitzgerald’s work (including new eBook and print-on-demand editions) depict Louise Brooks on their covers. Why? Because Brooks' image is iconic.

For more on Louise Brooks and F. Scott Fitzgerald, see the May 9th LBS blog, "Louise Brooks and the original Great Gatsby."

Brooks did play a Flapper on the screen on at least a couple of occasions, in Just Another Blonde (1926) and Love Em and Leave Em (1926). Only the latter film survives in tact. Brooks' characters in these two films was never so glamorous as Fitzgerald's flappers, but they did diepict the wild and carefree spirit of the times in plainer garb.

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