Thursday, October 14, 2021

Louise Brooks - Her Last Hurrah in 1931

I recently noticed that the fabulous Media History Digital Library has a bunch of issues of Broadway and Hollywood Movies magazine dating from 1930 through 1934. That's five years worth of this stylish though little known publication. I did my usual search through the magazines, looking for articles or mentions of Louise Brooks, and was a bit surprised by how little press the actress received. Of course, at the time, it was all about Garbo and Dietrich and Mae West and other stars both still remembered and now forgotten. Here is the cover of the February, 1931 issue of the magazine.

Brooks' best year in Broadway and Hollywood Movies was 1931. During the year she was mentioned 3 times, once erroneously, and once not at all when she should have been mentioned. In 1931, Brooks had been absent from Hollywood for nearly two years. She had worked in Europe, and returned to the United States hoping to make a comeback. That year, she appeared in three films, two feature, It Pays to Advertise (Paramount, directed by Frank Tuttle) and God's Gift to Women (Warner Brothers, directed by Michael Curtiz), and a short, Windy Riley Goes Hollywood (Educational, directed by William B. Goodrich aka Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle). Each were middling fair at best, and each did nothing to help restart or revive Brooks' flagging career. Brooks was also cast, but walked away from a film which would have helped her career a good deal, William Wellman's The Public Enemy (Warner Brothers).

Brooks' standing in Hollywood is exemplified by these mere mentions in various 1931 issues of  Broadway and Hollywood Movies magazine. In each, she referenced as having appeared in a film. Coincidentally, the write-ups for both God's Gift to Women and Windy Riley Goes Hollywood appeared side-by-side. Considering how concise these write-ups are, it's not surprising that Brooks didn't receive more coverage, especially in regards to Windy Riley Goes Hollywood, in which she is the co-star.

The other film Brooks appeared in in 1931 was It Pays to Advertise. Her role was little more than a brief bit, a five minute cameo at the beginning of the film. (Brooks reportedly played the part to complete her contract with Paramount.) Usually, she was billed fifth or sixth. Truth be told, at the time Brooks was the biggest name in the film; Carole Lombard was at the beginning of her career. However, despite her past fame, her cameo wasn't enough to be mentioned in this short write-up of the film. 

Brooks' one other mention in a 1931 issue of Broadway and Hollywood Movies was for her non- appearance in The Public Enemy. As mentioned, Brooks was cast in the film, and early publicity went out listing her among the cast of this sensational film. (William Wellman Jr, the son of the director and a friend to the Louise Brooks Society, thinks Brooks may have even shot a scene or two before leaving the production - but this has never been confirmed let alone proven.) Somehow, Brooks' name remained associated with the film, for decades to come. And in 1931, Broadway and Hollywood Movies magazine was not alone in mentioning the actress, even though she was far from one of the top billed stars in the film. (I have a thick file of similar erroneous mentions of Brooks' role in the film from film magazines which should have known better to big city newspapers which printed the publicity materials they received.)

And that's it. Brooks' acting career was in steep decline. The only other time she is mentioned in Broadway and Hollywood Movies was on their "Splits and Splices" page in March 1933 in relation to her ex-husband, Eddie Sutherland, who had just remarried.The magazine noted, "Eddie Sutherland is back in L. A. with another wife, his fourth. He flew to Yuma. Ariz., to marry Audrey Henderson, who is not an actress, like his other wives. They were accompanied by Harry Akst, song writer, and Lonnie D’Orsay. Sutherland is a nephew of Thomas Meighan. His former wives were Marjorie Daw, Louise Brooks and Ethel Kenyon. Miss Kenyon, incidentally, was married to Charles Butterworth, actor, in New York,, a few weeks ago." 

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