Saturday, August 8, 2020

Louise Brooks - actress remembered as artist

Louise Brooks, in the years before her passing
Louise Brooks died on this day in 1985. Articles and obituaries were carried in newspapers across the United States and around the world. Brooks' passing was news, and a few pieces even appeared on the front page and above the fold, none more prominently than on the front page of the August 9 issue of the Democrat and Chronicle, the newspaper in Rochester, New York -- the  city were the former silent film star had long lived. Besides the front page piece, there were three other articles inside the paper. Additional pieces appeared in the newspaper in the days that followed.

Barry Paris penned a moving tribute that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on August 14th. It was titled "Natural actress remembered as artist." I titled this post after that title. Some of the other obits which appeared include this Los Angeles Times headline, "Rebellious Silent Film Beauty Dies."

The use of the word rebel was picked-up on in other headlines, like this one, "Louise Brooks, 78, rebel star who didn't shine in Hollywood," from the Chicago Tribune.

To criticize, to shun "enslavement," or to give up stardom is to make you a rebel, or anti-star, as these three headline suggest. Each of them, from the newspapers in Camden, New Jersey, Tucson, Arizona, and Louisville, Kentucky respectively - each drew from the same syndicated, wire service story (either the Los Angeles Times or Associated Press), but drew a different moral from Brooks' life story.

In 1985, many newspaper readers likely didn't know who Louise Brooks had been. Thus, some headlines had to contextualize her in both their headline and in the caption that might have accompanied any image, like this example from The Record, the newspaper in Hackensack, New Jersey.

And this example from the Los Angeles Times, which notes her cult standing because of Pandora's Box, her best know film: 

Explanation via contextualization is the aim of this Canadian headline from the Edmonton Journal in Edmonton, Alberta "'America's Venus," Louise Brooks Dies."

"Film queen" is not a term used much if at all anymore. But this headline employed it in 1985, perhaps to reflect a bygone era. This curious headline, "Silent film queen Louise Brooks dies," come from  the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, out of Fort Worth, Texas.

The use of the word "queen" was picked up by various papers, including the Sacramento Bee - the newspaper in Sacramento, California, where I now live. Here is the same headline repeated. But what grabbed my attention was the portrait of a youthful Brooks, smiling. It is an uncommon image of a most uncommon person.

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