Those who are interested in the era of silent film, and perhaps a very few who are old enough to remember it, will have heard of such femme fatale icons as Clara Bow, Colleen Moore and the feisty “it” girl from Kansas, Louise Brooks.
Unlike Bow and Moore “Brooksie” didn’t do so well in Hollywood, despite her considerable sexual and androgynous beauty, and her acting ability, as well as her jet-black bobbed hair and alabaster complexion filming perfectly in black and white. But Brooksie really came of age as a screen legend at 23 when she waved goodbye to Tinsel Town to relocate in Weimar Berlin and play the lead in two 1929 films by director G. W. Pabst.
Pabst first cast Brooks as the angelic slut and “high-class prostitute” Lulu in Pandora’s Box where the character loves and leaves and breaks male hearts before falling from grace and meeting a sticky end in Victorian London where she unknowingly picks up Jack the Ripper, offers him some free romping when he says he hasn’t got any money, because she “likes him”, and takes him back to her grubby hovel. Today this is available on a DVD which includes an excellent one-hour documentary on Brooks, Looking for Lulu, featuring an interview with her in 1976 when she was 70, and eight years before she died of a heart attack.
Less well-known but just as good is the second film by Pabst and Brooks, Diary of a Lost Girl, a controversial social drama which is being released for the first time next month. This time Brooks plays the innocent Thymian who is abused by a wonderfully sleazy employee at her father’s pharmacy, has his baby, which dies, and is sent to a reform school run by two more wonderfully sleazy types, the scary lesbian headmistress and her scary lipstick-fetishist husband. After all the girls rebel Tymian escapes and in an all’s well that ends well finale ends up in a brothel, where she discovers alcohol, and something she is really good at.
Diary of a Lost Girl is being released on November 24 by Eureka Entertainment on a dual DVD/Blu-ray format as part of its extensive Masters of Cinema series, and the pack includes a fascinating 40-page booklet featuring some of the writings of Brooks from her book Lulu in Hollywood, published in 1982 with an expanded edition in 2000.