Monday, August 6, 2012

Louise Brooks in the 1940 census

Sharped eyed fan Ray Zantarski found Louise Brooks on the 1940 census. And, he was kind enough to send me a scan. I believe this is our Louise Brooks, as the location, place of birth, age, and prior place of residence all line-up. The page depicted below is the page from the 1940 census which records Brooks as a resident of Los Angeles. See line 13.

When the availability of the census was first announced earlier this year, I tried looking through Kansas records (knowing Brooks had returned home around that time), but couldn't really find my way through the records and gave up. I figured I would wait until the census became keyword searchable.

However, as is indicated on the above form, the census was conducted in early 1940, while Brooks was still living in Los Angeles. And that is why she is recorded in the California records - with her residence being given as 1317 N Fairfax Ave in Beverly Hills. As the census page indicates, Brooks lived in an apartment building. She lived in unit #3, and paid $55.00 per month in rent. (That was an average amount for the street, where renters also listed on the census page paid between $40.00 and $60.00 per month.) Here is a Google street view of the address. I don't know if this is the same building or not, though it looks possible.

View Larger Map

Her neighbors in her apartment building included a couple in unit #1, Denison and Lillian Clift. His occupation was listed as an "independent moving picture" writer. San Francisco-born Denison Clift was a prolific writer and less prolific director of films who got his start in the silent era. He directed a handful of films in England starring Fay Compton, perhaps the best known being A Bill of Divorcement (1922). Other of his British silents were Demos (1921) and Sonia (1921), both of which included Evelyn Brent. (Brooks and Brent appeared in two films together.) Today, Clift's best known film may be The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (1935), starring Bela Lugosi, Gibson Gowland, and Clifford McLaglen, the brother of Victor McLaglen. [In the United States, The Mystery of the Marie Celeste is known as Phantom Ship.]

Denison Clift during the filming of The Mystery of the Marie Celeste

Another of Brook's neighbors in her apartment building was a 30 year old Russian-born freelance musician named Arcady Konchester, who lived in unit #4. He is credited with performing on Dick Haymes and Bing Crosby records. I believe he was a violinist, and in 1935 performed in Singapore under the name Arkady Konchester. Mason and Alice Cline, a couple in their mid-fifties who came from Stockton and who lived in unit #2, managed the apartments.

What's especially interesting about this census record is that Brooks occupation is listed as "copy writer" in the magazine field. Her income for 1939, however, was given as none - and Brooks was listed as unemployed. 

Except for "Hints for Dancers" - the series of text-heavy advertisements which ran in local newspapers which Brooks likely helped write, the former film star is not known to have written or published anything at this period in her life. Her listing as a "copy writer" may have been aspirational. (Once she returned to Kansas, Brooks did write and self-published a booklet titled The Fundamentals of Ballroom Dancing.)

These bits of information beg the question. How did Brooks get by? Did someone else support her? Or did she have a part-time job for which she did not declare any income?

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