LOUISE BROOKS, fugitive from Hollywood.
- From the Louise Brooks Society blog - translated from the
LOUISE BROOKS, fugitive from Hollywood.
By Mme Buttuller da Costa.
The Cineromans studios, situated on the Mediterranean coast,
are the life force of Joinville, a small suburb of Paris alongside
the Bosque de Vincennes. It is there that we meet, on a hot
September afternoon, the Sofar actors working on Prix de Beaute
under the direction of Augusto Genina.
A big studio is, in general, the only place in the world where time
and space is arranged according to human fantasy. When one
enters into these offices of illusion, a big cave suddenly appears
full of bandits from the Middle-Ages on the spot where weeks
ago a luxurious cosmopolitan restaurant was built. There one
encounters a lunar passage on one side of the hall, on the
same side of a large Banco do City. All in big contrast with the
pillars and scaffolds crossing the floor on which we find the film
equipment and projectors. And here and there, situated as in
quiet serene islands in this ocean of excitement, spots full of
bright lights, in witch we catch people in the middle of filming a
scene, and other personnel waiting for that scene to end, to then
add to it just the right atmosphere with cardboard and stucco
walls. All to bring the filmed sequences to just the exact level of
liveliness, required for the viewing pleasure of the spectator.
But the problem this French production suffers from right now is
a period of inactivity. The launching of a sound film leaves the
Cineromas studios, even though they are the best equipped in
Europe, at a standstill. Therefore, they find themselves in
silence, as in a forgotten church, in which dozens of assistants
devotedly work on the production. Nobody speaks loudly. All
tools have been removed so as not to hinder ones walk through
the hall. The floor is polished to a luxurious glow.
Genina, the sympathetic director of many films of worldwide
acclaim (Boy or Girl, Careful With The Telephone, Latin Quarter,
etc.) and of course the big favorite of our readers, comes to meet
us and introduce his actors. Between them is Louise Brooks, the
perverse Miss Helena from A Girl in Every Port, a pleasant
creature perfectly formed and photogenic to an absolute rare
Her black hair, cut like Joan dÕArc, falls towards her eyes - eyes
made of melting brown. There is a sad smile and serious look
on her face. Louise Brooks is the prototype of the American girl.
Or better yet, the chorus girl, according to her physique. Mostly,
she is a girl who recalls distant feelings, leaving one almost
cold. She is the antithesis of Dina Gralla, the exuberant, and the
We accept a cigarette and sit down beside her. As a good
American, Louise only smokes cigarettes from the New World
and drinks cold water out of an Evian bottle in front of her, taking
small sips while having this conversation.
ÒYes, I really like working in Europe,Ó she responds to one of our
questions. ÒThis is the third movie I made in a short time on the
Continent. The first and second were in Berlin. I like to say I like
this one the best, for interviews, but even more in terms of artistic
temperament. I wasn't really please with the others. Pandora's
Box and The Diary of a Lost Girl left me in this strange mystified
state of mind.Ó
ÒAnd in this film?Ó
ÒThis film is a completely different. ItÕs a simple story that evolves
around some normal girls who get deceived by fame and
fortune. ItÕs a story about human nature, daily life.Ó
The sad, timid, smile returns to Louise Brooks lips. WhoÕll speak
of the enchanted timidness of the artists of the silver screen
while talking to an interviewer? WhoÕll talk honestly about those
who hardly speak of themselves, they who live in their own world,
while working for the big public, the entire world?
Brooks asks us where we are from. Silently we gave her a copy
of number 50 of Cinfilo, opened to page 25. Her caricature,
drawn by Cebrian, enlightened our eyes. It is a sketch that will
never witness the happiness it caused. A gracious, youthful
spirit, as exists in all young Americans, immediately emerges.
Louise Brooks, almost applauding with joy, laughs:
ÒOh, that is me!Ó
With a smile only we can see, she asks us to tell her our
nationality and that of the artist. She was convinced we were
Italians and just now found out that we were Portuguese. It was
one of the few instances in which we werenÕt taken for Spanish.
ÒI never been to Portugal,Ó she says, Òbut I heard about it through
Lily Damita, my Portugese girlfriend who works as a French
actress. She told me a lot about Lisbon, a place were I would
really like to go.Ó
This was news to us. We always thought that Lily Damita was
French. The conversation turned itself to the New World,
especially Hollywood. Louise said:
ÒDonÕt talk to me about Hollywood. I simply hate it. I worked in
Hollywood for one and a half years, but the whole lifestyle, the
snobbism, everything, it isnÕt for me. Give me New York, were I
made most of my movies. I really think IÕll never return to
She turned silent for a moment, and the sad expression returned
to her face. Her eyes focused on a point far away. Meanwhile, the
light was being adjusted for the scene that she was to film next.
The stand-in, who would replace Brooks in this scene, was
It is a short scene, in which she walks past the table of the editor
of Le Globe. Brooks, typist of the secretary of this major Parisian
newspaper, speaks of the big beauty pageant about to take
place in Colombo.
An excellent actor, Andr Nicolle, impressed by the beauty of the
petite typist, insists that she takes part in the Miss Europe
contest, a contest with which she could trade in her typewriter.
The petite girl doesnÕt really want to, but on the other hand, her
chances for success in life donÕt seem too grand either as the
bride of a honest, sincere, jealous company typesetter....
She is uncertain. After some thought, and a quick interview, she
decides to take a chance in the contest, a contest in which
others less beautiful than she donÕt dare take part.
Everything about Louise Brooks, the way she looks, her
splendidness, her intuition, it all leaves Genina with excitement.
But she is not satisfied; she wants it to be perfect. So the scene
is done twice. Only then is she satisfied with her performance.
ÒOn tourne!,Ó laughs the director.
And then the camera films a closing scene, in which Andr
NicolleÕs group leads Brooks to the door of her office, whispering
to her the phrase that wraps it up, the perverse phrase:
ÒFaites cmon, petit, lÕavenir est vons.Ó
While clutching the copy of Cinfilo we gave her, Brooks offers
us one of her new photographs.
Unsuccessfully, she searches the photographs for one with a
smile. But its no use, she canÕt find one. She isnÕt satisfied with
the pictures, with the way she looks. She seems to want to avoid
a situation in which she doesnÕt look her best in a published
photo. However, she seems to make an artistic decision, and
offers us one.
We ask about upcoming projects. SheÕll go to America after she
finishes this movie and settle her divorce. Maybe this is the key
to her mood. It is possible that sheÕll return to Europe to make
more movies, finding some time for a vacation. Up till now, she
has seen London, Berlin and Paris, the beautiful sights of
France; Italy attracts her greatly.
An unforeseen blackout immobilizes the studio. Genina comes
over to us while the mechanics look for what caused the
He talks to us about sound film. Louise Brooks believes its
progress and in its perfection within a few years. Meanwhile, she
finds the female sound of the equipment used to thicken the
sound of a male voice silly. Genina agrees.
Concerning Prix de Beaute, Genina is satisfied. The outdoor
scenes, where the pageant takes place, were filmed in San
Sebastian, the famous beach of the rich. ItÕs a pageant where a
woman will be crowned Miss Europe, a woman born in Wichita.
She smokes another cigarette, in spite of no smoking signs
hanging everywhere. But we are in tolerant France. Genina
keeps talking to us about his movie, in a passionate way one
only expects from a true artist.
I think about the movie. In my opinion it will serve as an excellent
introduction to the sound film. ItÕs necessary that one goes
Looking at the beach of Joinville, I canÕt stop thinking that the
profession of an actor is really not a sinecure.
One thinks of the efforts of the crew who worked on this movie,
and their great efforts on this hot afternoon (registering a high of
38 degrees in the shadow). This is work the sunbathers and
swimmers, cooling of in the Mediterranean, are unaware. In the
end, I can only conclude that life is made of failures to
understand unsatisfied needs.
Biattriz, September 1929.