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Scenes from the Movies

Peter Campbell, 5 August 1982

Lulu in Hollywood 
by Louise Brooks.
Hamish Hamilton, 109 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 9780241107614
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... The photographs of Louise Brooks in Lulu in Hollywood show a face as beautiful, and almost as unchanging, as a Japanese mask. Both praise and criticism notice this inexpressiveness: ‘Louise Brooks exists with an overwhelming insistence ... always enigmatically impassive,’ ‘Louise Brooks cannot act ...

Brooksie and Faust

Angela Carter, 8 March 1990

Louise Brooks 
by Barry Paris.
Hamish Hamilton, 640 pp., £20, February 1990, 0 241 12541 3
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... I once showed G.W. Pabst’s 1929 film version of Wedekind’s Lulu plays, Louise Brooks’s starring vehicle Pandora’s Box, to a graduate class at the University of Iowa. I was apprehensive; these were children of the television age, unfamiliar with the codes of silent movies, especially of German silents, the exaggerated gesture, the mask-like make-up, the distorted shadows ...

Three Poems

August Kleinzahler, 2 November 1995

... of the women they escort in tight black leather, bangs and tattoos, cute little toughies, so Louise Brooks annealed in MTV, headed off for huevos rancheros and the Sunday Times at some chic, crowded dive. I don’t recall it at all this way, do you? How sweetly complected and confident they look, their faces unclouded by the rages and ...


Marilyn Butler, 22 January 1981

Three-Quarter Face 
by Penelope Gilliatt.
Secker, 295 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780436179587
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Show People 
by Kenneth Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 297 77842 0
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When the lights go down 
by Pauline Kael.
Boyars, 592 pp., £8.95, August 1980, 0 7145 2726 2
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... Tynan’s other four are stars of stage, screen or box – Ralph Richardson, Johnny Carson, Mel Brooks and Louise Brooks. Still, he makes a polished bid for literary respectability, and Penelope Gilliatt, introducing her own collection, has an even more exalted sense of what she is about: The mysteries of creativity ...

The Real Magic

David Sylvester, 8 June 1995

A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... and slavelike. There are actresses whose intelligence always shows – like Katharine Hepburn, Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box, or Dietrich in the Sternberg films. Then there are actresses who seem stripped of any chance of control. They are simply there, caught in the lights by the camera and the movie – like ...

Skating Charm

James Wolcott: Kenneth Tynan, 13 December 2001

The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan 
edited by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 439 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 7475 5418 8
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... revive his reputation through a series of profiles for the New Yorker, his biggest scoop enticing Louise Brooks to break her silence, a piece laden with Sunset Boulevard shadows. The much-publicised party snap of Tynan in drag as Brooks, looking instead eerily like a cross between Milton Berle and Anna Wintour. His ...

The Spree

Frank Kermode, 22 February 1996

The Feminisation of American Culture 
by Ann Douglas.
Papermac, 403 pp., £10, February 1996, 0 333 65421 8
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Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the Twenties 
by Ann Douglas.
Picador, 606 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 330 34683 0
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... into the open. Edna St Vincent Millay had so many lovers that they considered holding reunions; Louise Brooks, in search of ‘the truth, the full sexual truth’, roundly announced that what she liked best was ‘to drink and fuck’, and it seems reasonable to say that the age of feminine reticence was over. Douglas cites Freud’s essay ‘Thoughts ...

Audrey and Her Sisters

Wayne Koestenbaum, 18 September 1997

Audrey Hepburn 
by Barry Paris.
Weidenfeld, 454 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 297 81728 0
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... The new biography of Audrey Hepburn, by Barry Paris, a writer already praised for his books on Louise Brooks and Garbo, is an acute, tender-hearted and entertaining dish of Hepburn facts – he interviewed friends and family, and has a sharp eye for her film-work’s idiosyncrasies; more important, he offers a grid for dream inquiries into star ...

I, too, write a little

Lorna Sage: Katherine Mansfield, 18 June 1998

The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Vol I 
edited by Margaret Scott.
Lincoln University Press, 310 pp., NZ $79.95, September 1997, 0 908896 48 4
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The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Vol II 
edited by Margaret Scott.
Lincoln University Press, 355 pp., NZ $79.95, September 1997, 0 908896 49 2
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... woman with (as Woolf noticed sniffily) ‘hard’ outlines, smart scent and a squared-off Louise Brooks fringe. There was no fun in writing about writing. Perhaps the most famous entry of all in these papers is the one where she records her first haemorrhage – and also her dread of not having enough time to assemble an oeuvre: February 19th ...

Their Mad Gallopade

Patrick McGuinness: Nancy Cunard, 25 January 2018

Selected Poems 
by Nancy Cunard.
Carcanet, 304 pp., £12.99, October 2016, 978 1 78410 236 4
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... whom they converged. Gucci’s ‘Hard Deco’ line for Spring 2012 was launched in homage to ‘Louise Brooks and Nancy Cunard’. This edition of her poems chooses one of Moffat’s photographs for its cover: Cunard’s head is upside down, her chin pointing upwards and her headdress cascading down, the focus blurring and softening as it goes, until ...

Corncob Caesar

Murray Sayle, 6 February 1997

Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur 
by Geoffrey Perret.
Deutsch, 663 pp., £20, October 1996, 9780233990026
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... 39, he returned to West Point as superintendent. His mother moved back with him. Two years later, Louise Brooks, a lively, 31-year-old divorced mother of two and heiress to one of the biggest fortunes in America, drove up the Hudson to West Point with friends for the day. Brooks had already been the mistress of General ...


Ronald Bryden, 10 December 1987

The Life of Kenneth Tynan 
by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 407 pp., £16.95, September 1987, 9780297790822
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... for more of Humphrey Bogart, just seen in The Petrified Forest. His last, a New Yorker profile of Louise Brooks, reads like a farewell hymn to Aphrodite Cinematica, ageless epitome of all the girls loved over the years on thousands of silver screens. It seems to have been by way of film that he was drawn to his next love, old Broadway. As fans devour the ...

Dreams of the Decades

Liz Jobey: Bill Brandt, 8 July 2004

Bill Brandt: A Life 
by Paul Delany.
Cape, 336 pp., £35, March 2004, 0 224 05280 2
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Bill Brandt: A Centenary Retrospective 
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... Film und Foto. He had seen Buñuel’s films and, probably, Pabst’s silent films starring Louise Brooks, Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Pabst’s combination of realism and shadowy melodrama, with young women falling from grace into the clutches of sinister and predatory men, are reminiscent of Brandt’s more theatrical ...

I wish she’d been a dog

Elaine Showalter, 7 February 1991

Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart 
by Charlotte Margolis Goodman.
Texas, 394 pp., $24.95, May 1990, 0 292 74022 0
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... them both (he had a small trust fund). When he was hired by Louisiana State University, Cleanth Brooks telegraphed on behalf of the Southern Review: ‘PLEASE ADVISE BY WESTERN UNION IF MRS LOWELL KNOWS SHORTHAND.’ At home, she had to retype his poems every time he changed a word. During the war he was in prison for several months for his own bizarre form ...

My word, Miss Perkins

Jenny Diski: In the Typing Pool, 4 August 2005

Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture 
edited by Leah Price and Pamela Thurschwell.
Ashgate, 168 pp., £40, January 2005, 0 7546 3804 9
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... and the world he moved and shook during his lifetime could become his medium after he died, as did Louise Owen, secretary to the newspaper owner Lord Northcliffe. In her essay on this early and oddly literal version of the ‘secretary to the stars’ phenomenon, Bette London describes how Owen tried to appropriate the immense popular power of her late ...

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