Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Louise Brooks: Day by Day 1906-1985, part one

A massive project which I have been working on (in between other projects) is Louise Brooks: Day by Day 1906-1985, a page on the Louise Brooks Society website. It is a work in progress.

Louise Brooks was 78 years old at the time of her death. All together, her life ran over the course of 28,758 days. She accomplished a great deal in her lifetime, appearing in 24 films, writing a book, appearing on radio, and performing hundreds of times on stage as a dancer. She also taught dancing, and worked as a professional ballroom dancer. However, relatively speaking, little is known about what Brooks was doing on any given day.

From the mass of material I have gathered, Brooks' activities can be traced to approximately a thousand days throughout her lifetime. Best documented is the 18 year period – running from 1922 through 1940, a period of 6939 days – when Brooks worked as a dancer and actress and many of her activities were a matter of public record.

Louise Brooks: Day by Day 1906-1985 attempts a day-by-day account of Brooks' life. It contains entries both significant and mundane, and is based on multiple sources including, first and foremost,  dates and events found in the Barry Paris biography. I also contains entries recorded by Brooks in her notebooks (which she kept from the mid-1950s through her death); other dates were gathered from various magazines and newspapers (especially those published where Brooks was resident), along with other disparate sources, such as census records  and passenger manifests.

I encourage anyone interested to check out what I have so far accomplished at Louise Brooks: Day by Day 1906-1985. There is more to come. If you can suggest documented specific dates  related to Louise Brooks, please contact the LBS. In the meantime, here are a few highlights for the years prior to Brooks becoming a film star.

Nov. 14, 1906
Born Mary Louise Brooks in the town of Cherryvale, Kansas to Leonard and Myra Brooks. A small article announcing the birth appears on the front page of the local newspapers, the Cherryvale Republican and Cherryvale Daily News.

Sept. 2, 1910
Performs in "Tom Thumb Wedding" at the Cherryvale Christian church. Admission is 15 and 25 cents. The following day, a newspaper article states there was "good attendance," and that the "program pleased the audience, and netted the sum of $300 for the church."

Aug. 6, 1915
As one of Bertha Nusbaum's piano students, performs "Little Fairy Waltz Op. 105, No. 1" by Ludovic Streabbog at the home of a neighbor.

Jan. 18, 1918
Brooks, who is called "Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary" in the local newspaper, leads a "Dance of the Flowers" with 12 other Flower Maidens in the Mother Goose Pageant at the local High School, a benefit for the Red Cross fund.

Feb. 12, 1918
Joins the newly formed G. K. Club (Girls Knitting Club), composed of other local youngsters, who enjoy games, music, treats, and other other activities and meet at the home of a neighbor.

May 2, 1919
Dances "The Gloating Dance of Destruction" (as arranged by Mrs. Milburn Hobson) at "The Progress of Peace" pageant at the Beldorf theater in Independence. The event is advertised, and mention is made in the ad of Brooks performance. A "large audience" turns out. The event, under the auspices of the local Y.M.C.A., is a benefit to further the sale of Liberty bonds. (Vivian Jones, the future Vivian Vance, also takes part.)

Nov. 15, 1919
Hosts an outing for friends, who take in the Dorothy Gish comedy I'll Get Him Yet at the Best Theatre, followed by lunch at the Sunflower Pharmacy.

May 20, 1921
Brooks plays Catherine Rogers in a two-act play, Mr. Bob, staged in the auditorium of the Horace Mann intermediate school in Wichita. Some 600 students attend the event.

Oct. 5, 1921
Elected to the sophomore class student council.

May 18, 1922
Performs an "Egyptian Dance" at the Arcadia Theater at a convention event sponsored by the Kansas Bankers Association.

Oct. 3, 1922
Referenced in a front page review in the Lewistown Sentinel. Later in the day, appears with Denishawn at the Strand Theatre in Shamokin, Pennsylvania.

Oct. 11, 1922
Receives her first mention in the New York Times in a review of the Denishawn engagement at Selwyn Theatre. Later in the day, appears with Denishawn at the Opera House in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Nov. 7, 1922
First mention in a Canadian publication: Brooks is referenced in a review in the London Free Press.

Nov. 18, 1922
Appears with Denishawn at the Crawford Theatre in Wichita, Kansas. Brooks is presented with "many flower tributes." Following the performance, Brooks' parents host a dinner party at their home, with Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Martha Graham, Charles Wiedeman, Pear Wheeler and other members of the Denishawn Company.

Jan. 15, 1923
Appears with Denishawn at Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, New York. (Unknown to Brooks, future surrealist photographer Lee Miller is in the audience.)

December 29, 1923
Appears with Denishawn in matinee and evening performances at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

March 3, 1924
Appears with Denishawn at the High School Auditorium in Hibbing, Minnesota. (Is that Bob Dylan's High School?)

April 18, 1924
Denishawn Dance Company starts a two day run of matinee and evening performances at the Grand Opera House in London, Ontario, Canada.

July 8, 1924
New York Telegram and Evening Mail raves about Brooks, which states she is the "fairest youngster that has dawned on Broadway in a long time. This is her first show, and word came from Atlantic City that she was a revelation of superlatively lovely girlhood...."

Oct. 20, 1924
Begins dance engagement at the Cafe de Paris in London. She is "cordially received" on her first night. The popular act, Layton & Johnstone, are also on the bill.

April 21, 1925
Brooks meets African-American actor Paul Robeson at a party at the apartment of writer / photographer Carl Van Vechten. Robeson thought her "very conceited and impossible."

May 16, 1925
Attends the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky with director Herbert Brenon.

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