Sunday, January 27, 2013

Downton Abbey - the Louise Brooks connections

Louise Brooks, by Barry Paris
If you are a fan of silent film and Downton Abbey, you may have noticed a scene where one of the downstairs help was spotted reading a vintage issue of Photoplay magazine with Mabel Normand on the cover. The connection the popular series has with the silent film era doesn't end there. The series, set in England in the early years of the 20th century, also has some rather interesting ties to Louise Brooks.

Back in November, a handful of English writers were asked by the Guardian newspaper which books had most impressed them during the course of the year. The piece was titled "Books of the Year 2012." The answer given by actor, novelist, screenwriter, director and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes caused a bit of a stir, as the book he mentioned was published in 1989. Fellowes' answer reads this way.

"I suspect the book that has haunted me the most this year was the life of that queen of the silent screen, Louise Brooks: A Biography (University of Minnesota £17), by Barry Paris. I have seldom read so lyrical a tale of self-destruction. When she was a girl, my mother used to be mistaken for Louise Brooks and so I have always felt a sort of investment in her, but I was unprepared for this heartbreaking tale of what-might-have-been."

Wow, what an eloquent appreciation of Barry Paris' acclaimed biography. I, for one, couldn't agree more. As I have said before, it is the best biography I have ever read, and it is the best biography I will ever read. It's that good! It is also a book anyone interested in silent film or a life story well told should read.

One wonders if Fellowes knows that Shirley MacLaine, one of the stars of Downton Abbey, is also a BIG fan of Louise Brooks. Over the years, MacLaine has said as much in interviews, all the while expressing her interest in playing Brooks on screen. Additionally, one of the other stars of Downton Abbey, Elizabeth McGovern, has developed a similar interest in Brooks. After serving as the reader for the audio version of Laura Moriarty's 2012 novel, The Chaperone, McGovern snapped up the movie rights to the bestselling book, which tells a story centered around Brooks' time as an aspiring Denishawn dancer.

If, one day, Fellows scripts  a film version of The Chaperone with McGovern as the title character and MacLaine as Louise Brooks' mother (?), just remember you saw it here first. But then who would play the teenage Brooks?

Are you a fan of Louise Brooks and of Downton Abbey? Who do you think could play a teenage Brooks?  Leave a comment in the comments field. I would love to hear your thoughts.


annamissed said...

Saw this gal several years ago while daughter was watching A's nexttopmodel and was impressed how much in looks and especially attitude she recalled LB. No idea if there's any acting talent.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article...If not too much time goes by...I think young Emma Watson would make a splendid teenaged Louise Brooks...All Kansans are quite proud of our sister Louise...

Louise Brooks Society said...

Looks like it's gonna happen: "Fox Searchlight Sets Simon Curtis-Directed ‘The Chaperone’ With ‘Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern" (as scripted by Julian Fellowes also of Downton Abbey). See

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