Friday, March 21, 2014

Love Letters of an Interior Decorator - 1928 fiction which mentions Louise Brooks

Show Girl, by J. P. McEvoy, is well known among devotees of Louise Brooks as the first novel to feature a major character or storyline inspired by the actress. First serialized in Liberty magazine in 1928 (and quickly published in book form by Simon & Schuster), Show Girl told of the life and adventures of a character named Dixie Dugan.

The novel and its two follow-up books, Show Girl in Hollywood and Show Girl in Society, proved popular. So much so that they spawned a long-running comic strip which lasted into the 1960s, "Dixie Dugan," as well as a stage play, Show Girl, and two movies which unfortunately did not star Louise Brooks.

This sort of buzz makes one wonder if there were other works of fiction which either featured or named-checked the actress. There were, of course, the various fictionalizations and novelizations of the films in which Brooks' appeared.

Just recently, I came across another work of fiction which mentions, and even pictures, Louise Brooks. And that's not all, as it also notes her appearance in Beggars of Life!

The work in question is Love Letters of an Interior Decorator, by Bert Green; he also drew its illustrations. (Bert Green worked as a film animator in the teens, drew comic strips including "Kids," wrote fiction and scripts, and even directed a Hollywood short.) Like Show Girl, this novel was first serialized in Liberty magazine before being published in book form by Frederick A. Stokes, a leading publisher of the time.

Green's comedic novel has been described as a zany romp and as a cornerstone of Prohibition and Jazz Age fiction. Written in the manner of Gentleman Prefer Blondes, the malaprop-dropping narrator is a bootlegger in love with the flapper depicted on the cover. Subtitled "Romantic Outbursts of a Bootlegger," the story concerns, among other things, the tricky task of providing alcohol (then banned) to the Hollywood community, including its directors and actors. The bootlegger in question, Mike Shea, is known as an "Interior Decorator," as his job involves "plastering." For the uninitiated as well as the sober, the slang is explained on the book's back cover.


The chapter that came to my attention, "Rough Stuff Among the Stars," was published in Liberty magazine in July of 1928 (a few months before the release of the William Wellman directed film, Beggars of Life); it is the chapter which mentions Louise Brooks and her role as girl who dresses as a boy and goes on the run in Jim Tully's story.

This work of fiction certainly counts as one of the earliest works which mentions the actress. What follows is "Rough Stuff Among the Stars." For those interested, vintage copies of the book can be found on amazon.com, ebay, abebooks.com, and elsewhere.



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