18 May 2010

Lulu In Hollywood

Why is it that the most fascinating denizens of Hollywood are the ones who realize just how absurd the whole Hollywood system could be? This is particularly true of Louise Brooks, who scoffed at motion picture stardom in spite of the fact that she easily had the talent to achieve that talent for herself. Louise chose the Weimar Republic over Los Angeles County, and although her career suffered for it, the choice would ultimately set her legacy in stone. This is one of the many lessons one can learn from Lulu in Hollywood, Louise's account of her experiences in tinsel town.

Rather than an autobiography proper, Lulu in Hollywood is more a collection of essays that highlight episodes in Louise's life in (and out of) the limelight. Among these episodes are her stint in New York as a showgirl in the Scandals and the Follies, her friendship with Marion Davies' unfortunate niece Pepi, her work under the aegis of Georg Wilhelm Pabst and her childhood in small town Kansas. Louise also treats the reader to her commentary on such figures as W. C. Fields and Lillian Gish, among others.

That such accounts are given from a firsthand perspective is appealing enough -- my inner scholastic still values a good primary source, it seems -- but that fact that it is such a wit as Louise Brooks narrating the events makes the book doubly enjoyable to read. Brooksie, it seems, was one of those rare specimens of human who possess both beauty and brains (this is not lost on her -- at one point, she claims that the fact that she read books made her an oddity among the screen starlets).

While not quite iconoclastic, Louise's take on Hollywood -- and indeed on the social circles of which she was a part -- is anything but starry-eyed. Here is one who definitely did not drink the Kool-Aid. Although her candor ultimately proved fatal to her acting career, Louise's singular personalty allowed her to become an enduring figure -- far more so, it seems, than many of the major stars who were her contemporaries.

Although it is a brief affair, Lulu in Hollywood is nevertheless an engaging read, so much so that even readers who are not particularly well-versed in classic Hollywood lore will be able to enjoy Louise's remarks.

No comments:

Post a Comment