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Louise Brooks Hardcover – October 14, 1989

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Film historian Paris covers actress and author Brooks's life (1907-1985) from her days as a precocious child in Kansas through her sexually promiscuous, hedonistic adult years, here detailed exhaustively. Only 15 when she arrived in New York to dance with an established company, Brooks fouled up this opportunity, like many others, through sheer carelessness. A promising star in early Hollywood films, she scorned later roles and decamped for Europe. Eminent German director G. W. Pabst then spotted the American "vamp" and chose her to play Lulu in the film that made her a screen icon, Pandora's Box. It was downhill all the way after that as Brooks failed at everything, finally growing old, poor and alcoholic in New York. But she was discovered and befriended by one John Benz, whose influence brought her again to public attention and secured the home where she lived out her days, cared for and reasonably contented. The biography is a gossip lover's feast, naming names and telling tales, yet also makes an addition to film history. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Despite a brief career (24 films, only a handful of any merit), Louise Brooks led a life that is the stuff of Hollywood legend: star dancer in her teens with the Denishawn troupe, a studio contract and fame as a flapper with her "black" hairstyle, exile to Europe to make her best films (including Pandora's Box ), return to an indifferent Hollywood, "retirement" from movies at 32, years of struggling in New York at meager jobs, and finally, nearly 30 years of seclusion in Rochester, N.Y. There she was "discovered" by a growing legion of fans and found her calling as a writer, publishing Lulu in Hollywood (her character in Pandora's Box ) in 1982 (Knopf). This is the first book-length portrait of Brooks, and Paris takes full advantage of cooperation from numerous sources as well as access to Brooks's papers. Fascinating, titillating stuff. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/89.
- Thomas Wiener, formerly with "American Film," Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 609 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (October 14, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394559231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394559230
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Barry Paris is an award-winning biographer, film and music critic, and journalist who is the author of Louise Brooks. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, American Film, and numerous other publications. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am one of those who became entranced by Louise Brooks after seeing her in "Pandora's Box". She appeared to be highly sexual, intelligent, and to be marching to the sound of a drummer that she alone heard within herself. It turns out that she was all of this. This is an excellent biography and a lesson about what happens to those who despise the opportunities that life presents to us and to those whose lives are driven by sex rather than common sense. Louise Brooks was a very modern woman despite having been a star of the silent screen. She made only a few films but her performances in those films stand up with the great performances of today and their naturalism makes the acting of most silent screen starlets seem idiotic. While other actresses were concerned with nothing but their looks, Brooks was reading Shaw and Proust. While others did all they could to ingratiate themselves with the movie studios, Brooks had nothing but indifference for them. She turned her back on fame, fortune, and power. She could have had a brilliant career but always sabotaged her chances. She had beauty and incredible sex appeal. She had Chaplin as a lover. She wrote. She lives on today as an image of a woman ahead of her time and also as a tragic waste. Her own difficult personality drove everyone away. Her lack of discipline was childish. She fascinates. This is the best biography we will ever get of her. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Classic Hollywood Lives on October 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Louise Brooks by Barry Paris is the only full-length biography on silent screen legend Louise Brooks to date. Paris' career as a successful journalist serves him well in his role of biographer; his talent for in-depth research paired with stylish writing makes for exciting and highly-informative reading, and creates a book that will stand as the definitive biography in the face of any others that may follow.

In Louise Brooks, Paris carefully traces the actress' childhood in Cherryvale, Kansas - the events of which would have a profound influence on the woman she was to become. Her early stage career in New York and her film career in both Hollywood and Berlin are covered fully from both a professional and a personal viewpoint. Weaving Brooks' own reflections as well as countless interviews with contemporaries, Paris gives a well-rounded impression of a complex character. Brooks' sad decline is handled with sensitivity but also full disclosure, and her joyous, phoenix-like uprising in her later years serves for a real-life happy ending.

The book itself is nicely presented and a pleasure to hold - both in hardcover and in paperback - and is written in an easy-to-read font. A substantial book at 608 pages, it is illustrated throughout with black & white photos as well as an 8-page portrait gallery insert.

In a genre where dross is often offered as gold, Louise Brooks by Barry Paris is an intelligent, top-of-the-line masterwork - the very best in biography. Read it - you will not be disappointed!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Leiter on January 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Although it seems like I've always known who Louise Brooks was--that beautiful face encased in a glossy, black helmet of perfectly coiffed and timelessly stylish hair, which I'd seen in books and magazines--I now realize I knew next to nothing about this strangely compelling actress before reading Barry Paris's outstanding biography. I knew, of course, that she was a silent screen star but I'd only seen her in Pandora's Box, which I caught on TV many years ago, without really knowing just how significant a film it was. This book brings Brooks to life in a remarkably detailed and, mostly, evenhanded way, revealing a woman of extreme wilfulness, self-destructive tendencies, and nastiness, yet gifted with a magnetic personality, unforgettable beauty, and unusual intellectual curiousity. By her early twenties, Brooks had already been the lover of many powerful men, and had made a series of mostly second-rate films in which she played secondary roles but always managed to stand out because of her looks. Her greatest claim to cinema fame was in Pabst's Pandora's Box, made in Germany after she walked out on Hollywood, but a major failure in its day; it took almost a quarter of a century before it was rediscovered by cineastes and given masterpiece status. By then, Brooks, a compulsive drinker, sensualist, and smoker, had whittled much of her standing away, eventually becoming a bitter, hag-like recluse in a tiny Rochester, NY, apartment. She evolved into an excellent writer, but her output, like that of her films, was small.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
It's a long read, and a bit uneven, but it does give some poignant insights into Ms. Brooks' life. The early days author Paris recounts are a bit jumbled in places, and don't really give a lot of insight to Ms. Brooks' later career, though there are some hints. However the sections on her film career are vivid, detailed and engaging. In particular the book's real strength is the section detailing Ms. Brooks' European film career, although her relationship with Hollywood makes for interesting reading, too. Like the discussion of her earliest days, the section on her later life is a bit uneven. Still, overall it is a worthy read on a really noteworthy silent star and amazing dancer who most assuredly cut her own path in life, often at great cost.
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