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LOUISE BROOKS, fugitive from Hollywood.

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  • olive_e_thomas
    From the Louise Brooks Society blog - translated from the Portuguese. LOUISE BROOKS, fugitive from Hollywood. By Mme Buttuller da Costa. The Cineromans
    Message 1 of 1 , May 17, 2007
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      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 CinŽfilo, 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, AndrŽ 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 AndrŽ
      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 CinŽfilo 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.
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