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Louise Brooks, the legendary silent film superstar who became the worldwide symbol of the flapper and lived in seclusion in Rochester, NY from 1956 until her death in 1985 will have a film based on her life from the team that produced Downton. Abbey.
While Brooks was a superstar in silent films, she lost her appeal almost at the start of talkies. When she turned down William Wellman for the lead in Public Enemy opposite James Cagney in his breakout role, she essentially ended her career and claimed she “hated Hollywood”
She became known worldwide. She loved both men and women (see her Interview on our FB post). After going bankrupt in 1932, her life spiraled downward. She became an alcoholic. She even became a call girl or as they politely claimed a ” courtesan ” to wealthy older gentleman. She then became a salesgirl at Saks. Her alcoholism destroyed her life.
She eventually cleaned herself up and through a friend , she went to work as a curator at the George Eastman House film collection. She became a film historian and writer as she lived in a small apartment in Rochester from 1956 until her death in 1985.
Her life was far more fascinating than this short capsule. In her memoir of her life entitled “Louis Brooks: Looking for Lulu” she claimed that her former lover, CBS founder William S. Paley provided her a small monthly stipend that she lived on for decades.
Here is an article about the planned film that was written by Reporter Jack Garner of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, May 21, 2017
Louise Brooks, the legendary silent film icon who spent more than the last third of her life as a recluse in Rochester, will be the subject of a film that’s in the works for 2018.
PBS and Masterpiece Theatre have announced the production of its first feature film, and it will reunite the writer, director and star of Downton Abbey.
The source for the film will be The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty’s best-selling novel, which supposes what may have happened when a 36-year-old housewife from Wichita, Kansas, volunteered to be a chaperone for the talented but rambunctiously free-spirited 15-year-old Louise Brooks as she goes to New York in 1922 to study modern dance.
Brooks eventually became a featured dancer with the Ziegfeld Follies, and then a silent film star, eventually acclaimed as perhaps the first modern actress. But those events occurred after the time portrayed in Moriarty’s fictionalized account.
Now, for the Downton Abbey connections: The Chaperone will be scripted by Julian Fellowes and directed by Michael Engler, and will star Elizabeth McGovern, who played Lady Grantham in the hit series. McGovern will be the title character, while Julia Goldani Telles (of TV’s The Affair and Nurse Jackie) will play the teenage Louise.
The book is an entertaining story of a conservative Midwest woman, trying without much success to corral a rambunctious and wild teenage girl amid the urban delights of Manhattan. As a friend of the late Louise Brooks, and a longtime student of her life and career, I found the book leaning more on the older woman than on the teenage girl, but I still enjoy it, and look forward to the film adaptation, especially with a script by the notable Julian Fellowes.
In her great memoir, Lulu in Hollywood, Brooks seemed to barely remember her chaperone, except that she was “a stocky, bespectacled housewife of 36.” Brooks added that she only tolerated the chaperone’s “provincialism because she shared my love of the theater.”
Despite her Kansas roots and American background, Brooks’ most notable films were three European gems — Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl and Prix de Beauté. Her American titles included Beggars of Life, The Canary Murder Caseand the early John Wayne westernOverland Stage Raiders, which was her last film.
She lived in an apartment at 7 N. Goodman St. in Rochester from 1956, during a time when she studied film at the George Eastman Museum, wrote articles for academic film journals, and compiled her memoir, Lulu in Hollywood. Brooks died in 1985 at the age of 78.