Thursday, June 10, 2021

More on Adolfo Bioy Casares and Louise Brooks

Along with having mentioned Louise Brooks in two interviews (see previous blog), the Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914 – 1999) also wrote about her in his memoir and his diaries.

In his Memories (1994), Bioy wrote of his disillusionment over the decline of the screen career of one of his (and our) favorite actresses.  Here is the passage from the memoirs in which he discusses Brooks and his love of early film.

Progresivamente me aficioné a las películas, me convertí en espectador asiduo y ahora pienso que la sala de un cinematógrafo es el lugar que yo elegiría para esperar el fin del mundo.
Me enamoré, simultánea o sucesivamente, de las actrices de cine Louise Brooks, Marie Prévost, Dorothy Mackay, Marion Davis, Evelyn Brent y Anna May Wong.

De estos amores imposibles, el que tuve por Louise Brooks fue el más v ivo, el mas desdichado. ¡Me disgustaba tanto creer que nunca la conoscería! Peor aún, que nunca volvería a verla. Esto, precisamente, fue lo que sucedió. Despuesde tres o cuatros películas, en que la vi embeselado, Louise Brooks desapareció de las pantallas de Buenos Aires. Sentí esa desaparición, primero, como un desgarriamento; después, como una derrota personal. Debía admitir que si Louise Brooks hubiera gustado al público, no hubiera desaparecido. La verdad (o lo que yo sentía) es que no sólo pasó inadvertida por el gran público, sino también por las personas que yo conocía. Si concedían que era linda – más bien ‘bonitilla’ – , lamentaban que fuera mala actriz; si encontraban que era una actriz inteligente, lamentaban que no fuera más bella. Como ante la derrota de Firpo, comprobé que la realidad y yo no estábamos de acuerdo.

Muchos años despés, en París, vi una película (creo que de Jessua) en que el héroe, como yo (cuando estaba por escribir Corazón de payaso, uno de mis primeros intentos literarios), inconteniblemente echaba todo a la broma y, de ese modo, se hacía odiar por la mujer querida. El personaje tenía otro parecido conmigo: admiraba a Louise Brooks. Desde entonces, en mi país y en otros, encuentro continuas pruebas de esa admiración, y también pruebas que la actriz la merecía. En el New Yorker y en los Cahiers du cinéma leí articulos sobre ella, admirativos e inteligentes. Leí, asimismo, Lulú en Hollywood, un divertido libro de recuerdos, escrito por Louise Brooks.

En el 73 o en el 75, mi amigo Edgardo Cozarinsky me cito una tarde en un cafe de la Place de L’Alma, en Paris, para que conociera a una muchacha que haria el papel de Louise Brooks en un filme en preparacion. Yo era el experto que debia decirle si la muchacha era aceptable o no para el papel. Le dije que si, no solamente para ayudar a la posible actriz. Es claro que si me huberian hecho la pregunta en tiempos de mi angustiosa pasion, quiza la respuesta hubiera sido distinta. Para me, entonces, nadie se parecia a Louise Brooks.
 

With the help of the web and an Argentine friend, I have made a translation of the above passage and have come up with something inelegant, but still interesting.

Over time, I fell in love with movies, I became a regular viewer and now I think I want to wait for the end of the world on the seat of a movie theater..

I fell in love, simultaneously or successively, with the film actresses Louise Brooks, Marie Prevost, Dorothy Mackaill, Marion Davies, Evelyn Brent and Anna May Wong.
 
Of these impossible loves, I was most passionate about Louise Brooks, and it made me miserable. I hated that I could never know her! Worse, one never saw her again. This is exactly what happened. After three or four movies, I was spellbound, and Louise Brooks disappeared from the screens of Buenos Aires. I felt that disappearance, first, as a tearful break; then as a personal loss. Had she been better liked by the public, I feel Louise Brooks would not have disappeared. The truth (or what I felt) is that she was little known to the public, and also to people I knew. Granted she was cute – rather ‘pretty’ – though others complained she was a bad actress; if they found her a clever actress, they regretted that she was not more beautiful. Just like before the defeat of Firpo [the Argentine boxer who lost to Jack Dempsey], I proved that reality and me disagreed.

Many years later in Paris, I saw a movie (I think by [Alain] Jessua) in which the hero, like me (when I was wrote Heart of a Clown, one of my first literary attempts), took everything as a joke and consequently was hated by the woman he loved. That character, like me, admired Louise Brooks. Lately, here in Argentina and elsewhere, there is a renewed assessment and growing admiration for the actress, which is deserved. I read admiring and intelligent articles about her in the New Yorker and the Cahiers du Cinéma. I also read Lulu in Hollywood, a diverting memoir, written by Louise Brooks.

In 73 or 75, my friend Edgardo Cozarinsky asked me one afternoon in a cafe in the Place de l’Alma in Paris if I know a girl who would play Louise Brooks in a film which was in preparation. I was the expert who was to say if the girl was acceptable or not for the role. I said yes, not only to help the possible actress. Clearly, if I had been asked the question during my anguished passion, perhaps the answer would have been different. To me, no one seemed to be Louise Brooks.

Boiy's diaries were later edited (by Daniel Martino) and published in Spanish under the title Descanso De Caminantes : Diarios intimos (2001). Bioy's original diaries run some 20,000 pages, and there are a few passages touching on Brooks and the writer's love of early film. In 1977, Bioy wrote: 

"Por mi ideal de belleza femenina ha variado a lo largo del tiempo: preferí primero a las morenas atezadas, a las «chinitas» de mi país. Después me gustaron las de piel muy blanca y pelo negro: fue la época en que agonizaba de amor por la actriz Louise Brooks. Después me gustaron las pelirrojas y después, las rubias. Siempre me gustaron las jóvenes."

OR

"My ideal of feminine beauty has varied over time: I first preferred the dark-haired brunettes, the "chinitas" from my country. Then I liked very white skin and black hair: it was the time when I was dying of love for the actress Louise Brooks. Then I liked redheads and then blondes. I always liked younger women."

And in 1982, Bioy wrote:

"Cuando yo estaba enamorado (desde mi butaca del cine) de la actriz Louise Brooks, hacia el 23 o el 30, nadie compartía mi admiración. Hoy en día hasta los ridículos pedantes de los Cahiers du Cinéma la elogian."

OR

"When I was in love (from my seat at the cinema) with the actress Louise Brooks, between 1923 and 1930, no one shared my admiration. Today even the ridiculous critics of the Cahiers du Cinéma praise her."

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