Jump to Navigation

Louise Brooks - Newspaper articles

This material was taken from the Vertical File microfilm reel MF 251. It consists of newspaper articles that have been collected regarding Louise Brooks. The articles have been reproduced as closely to the original as possible, no corrections have been made. Not all the photographs have been reproduced. The microfilm is available through interlibrary loan.

Former Wichita Film Star Dances Up Comeback Trail

Louise Brooks Deserts New York Night Clubs for
Chorus Girl Job with Grace Moore

Louise Brooks, Wichita girl who danced her way to leading roles in the days of the silent movies and later deserted the screen for the New York night clubs, is now dancing along the comeback trail as a chorus girl in "Interlude," a musical staring Grace Moore.

For the past two or three years Miss Brooks has been a favorite entertainer in swanky New York night clubs but deserted the bright lights a few months ago to try for a comeback in Hollywood.

Miss Brooks' stage career started when she was in her early teens. From the Horace Mann intermediate school, Miss Brooks went to New York where she studied dancing in the Denishawn school. She later went on a tour as the youngest girl in the Denishawn troupe.

Her next venture in the theatrical world was in the chorus of George White's Scandals. The following season she teamed with Barbara Bennett for a trip to Europe where she gained world-wide recognition as the first girl to dance the Charleston in London. That was in 1925 when the Charleston craze swept this country and gradually made its way around the world.

Coming back to New York the late Flo Ziegfeld offered Miss Brooks a place with his glorified American girls and it was while working for him that a Paramount scout saw her and asked for screen tests. Miss Brooks demurred and worked another season in the Follies. Then she went to Paramount and one of her most famous pictures was the Canary Murder Case in which she played the leading role.

In 1928 she toured Germany and while there played in the silent pictures for both German and French film companies.

Miss Brooks' first venture into matrimony was with Eddie Sutherland, film director. They were later divorced and she married Deering Davis, Chicago sportsman in 1933. She and Davis are now separated, according to Mrs. Myra Brooks, mother of the actress.

Miss Brooks has made frequent visits home during the past few years. Her last visit was in 1936.

The Wichita Eagle, January 6, 1937

Louise Brooks Given Divorce, Maiden Name

Decree Obtained by Wichita Actress Is Effective in Two Weeks
Returning to Coast

Judge Robert L. NeSmith today heard evidence in the case in which Louise Brooks, film star, asked a divorce from her husband, Deering Davis, and said that the decree would become final at the expiration of the 60 day limit from the time the action was filed.

As the action was filed early in December but a couple of weeks remain before the decree becomes effective.

The court restored Mrs. Davis' maiden name of Brooks.

Mr. and Mrs. Davis were married at Chicago on October 10, 1933. In her petition, the actress charges that Davis left her on March 28, 1934.

The hearing was heard in the court's chambers. Nothing was said about property settlement.

The case was handled by L.P. Brooks, father of the plaintiff.

Miss Brooks said that she was asking for the divorce a short time before the 60 day limit expired as she wanted to leave for California where she hoped to have a part in a coming Paramount production.

The whole matter took place so quietly that few knew that the film star was in the courtroom.

The Wichita Eagle, January 26, 1938

Has a Manual On Dancing Art
Louise Brooks Writes a Comprehensive Booklet

Has Wide Experience

A contribution to the field of ballroom dancing literature reached leading Wichita news stands this month as Louise Brooks' "The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing" went on sale.

Written by Wichita's Louise Brooks, the booklet on ballroom dancing thoroughly codifies and synthesizes the fundamental basics of ballroom dancing technique in a handy, pocket-size manual.

The popular priced publication is not only for the sincere student of dancing and those hundreds to whom dancing affords a major recreation, but for the thousands who dance only occasionally and need the knowledge and sureness that comes from the application of simple rules and basic fundamentals of movement.

This purpose is adequately described in the booklet's foreword, ". . . this booklet is restricted solely to the outline and review of those basic fundamentals that are the essence of good dancing wherever discriminating people gather. . . . Regardless of one's knowledge of dancing, the application of the fundamentals outlined in these pages will permit anyone to improve his or her dancing immeasurably and give the sureness and poise that comes from a firm foundation of propriety and taste."

Miss Brooks' experience as a star of the stage and screen and an exhibition dancer who has performed in the leading social resorts of two continents lend to her composition the authoritative touch gleaned by her cosmopolitan life and her association with the world's finest ballroom dancers.

Wichita Eagle, December 17, 1940

Don Granger's
Talk of the Town

Memory Time--The message on the aquamarine envelope with the red, white and blue border and the 15 peseta stamp was compelling and clear:

"Mr. Postman," it began. "Please, send this letter to some newspaper (daily) of Wichita! Thank you."

Then to make the message even clearer the sender typed "Wichita, Kansas, U.S.A."

Naturally, the letter came to me and of course, I was delighted with it. I will quote it in full:

"Gentlemen," it began. "Excuse me, please. I know that my letter is very unusual and you will be very kind if you answer me.

"I write to you because I like very, very much the wonderful American actress Louise Brooks (I have seen her only in one film from 1929 and it was wonderful for me to see her); I know that Louise was born in Wichita and it is for it that I write to you. I would be very obliged to you if you say her actual direction to me. (Ed.Note: the phrase 'actual direction' is the literal Spanish translation of 'present address'). I would like very much if it is possible that you send me a photo of Louise Brooks and a little biographie of her. I know it is disturbing for you but I would be very obliged to you.

"Thank you very much for reading my unusual letter.

"My name and adresse are:
"Ricardo Mediavilla Fuidio
"Doctor Arcilza 33, Pral. Izq.
" Bilbao (Spain.)"

This is an Easy request to fill. I walked a few steps from my office to the desk of our oil editor, Ted Brooks, and said:

"Hey Ted. What do you hear from your sister, Louise?"

It was Ted who brought the picture that appears below. With it he produced other biographical data. The Eagle library has an envelope stuffed with stories about Louise and another envelope full of her pictures.

Isn't She Beautiful?--I can understand why Sr. Mediavilla threw a back flip or two when he saw the 1929 picture (I wonder which one it was) and fired off a letter to an unknown newspaper in a city he'd never heard of if it hadn't been what he believed to be her birthplace.

Actually, Louise Brooks came to Wichita from Cherryvale, Kan., at an early age. Her dad was a well-known and highly respected attorney and the family home was at 924 N. Topeka.

Louise went through the skinny little girl stage in grade school and the awkward teen-age state during her first year or two at East High, but the dance lessons she took finally began to pay off in an amazing transformation into a beautiful girl.

At 15, Louise was dancing on the stage of the Miller Theater. Then she joined the Ruth St. Denis and the Denishawn Dancers. Shortly after that Louise was picked by Flo Ziegfield to do an Apache dance and to be one of the six "Cosmopolitan" girls in "Louie the 14th."

In 1925, at the age of 18, Louise signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and began filming "The Street of Forgotten Men," at the company's Long Island studios.

All the Things that went with movie stardom came to Louise Brooks--marriage to a handsome millionaire, divorce. another marriage--this one to Eddie Sutherland when the famous director was making $2,000 per week--a house in Laurel Canyon, a butler, other servants, a Rolls Royce, and another divorce.

But Louise refused to play the Hollywood game. At 24, after 21 pictures, studio bosses put her aside. She went to France to do a picture, then did two for the German director, G.B. Pabst.

Now, after decades of obscurity, the Louise Brooks pictures enjoy a revival of popularity. Critics rave about them. Men like Sr. Mediavilla are moved to seek more information about her.

I Wonder which picture the romantic Spaniard saw. It could have been the French film, "Prix de Beaute," or either of her German pictures, "Lulu," and "Diary of a Lost Girl." Three of her best known American films are "Beggars of Life," "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em," and "A Girl In Every Port."

That's all for now Sr. Mediavilla. I'll send you a copy of the picture in the column. Good luck. It's always a pleasure to hear from a truly romantic person.

Wichita Eagle-Beacon, August 10, 1974

Raised in Wichita
Silent Screen Star Louise Brooks Dies

By Bob Curtright
Staff Writer

Former Wichitan Louise Brooks, whose dark beauty skyrocketed her to silent screen stardom and later enshrined her as a cult figure of early European films, was found dead in her home early Thursday in Rochester, N.Y. Once known as the "the girl in the black helmet" because of the shiny, cropped black hairstyle that became her trademark, she was 78.

Brooks, a near invalid who suffered from arthritis and emphysema, was discovered by a woman who was bringing her a breakfast tray. According to reports, she had talked with friends around midnight. Her niece, Rose Brooks of Wichita, said she apparently suffered a fall during the night. No other details were available.

The former film star's animosity toward Wichita and her Kansas roots became well-known in recent years, notably through a lengthy interview with Kenneth Tynan published in The New Yorker in 1978 and through a collection of her own essays published in book form in 1983 as "Lulu in Hollywood," after her most famous film characater.

"I fled to Wichita (in 1940 after ending her film career), where my family had moved in 1919," she told Tynan. "But that turned out to be another kind of hell. The citizens of Wichita either resented me for having been a success or despised me for being a failure. And I wasn't exactly enchanted with them."

Family members said she had not visited Wichita since 1943. Nor did she maintain contact with her family. Her brother, the late Ted Brooks, longtime oil-and-gas writer for the Eagle-Beacon, bemoaned that she would refuse to answer his letters. Indeed, his wife said she had never met her sister-in-law, although nieces and nephews occasionally visited their famous aunt in Rochester.

But she had also been a difficult and controversial figure in Hollywood, an ambitious woman who was frustrated by the pressures of the male-dominated film industry and who refused to suffer in silence. Her running battles with studio moguls are legendary, and her unglossed observation of her fellow movie folks are notorious.

"I Must confess to a lifelong curse; My own failure as a social creature," she once wrote.

Louise Brooks was born Nov. 7, 1906, at Cherryvale in southeast Kansas. She moved to Wichita with her parents in 1919, and the family settled at 924 N. Topeka, a 14-room gray frame house (now demolished) that, in one of her few fond recollections, was "falling down with books I loved." Her father, L.P. Brooks, was a lawyer who became an assistant attorney general of Kansas.

She was a child who enjoyed movement and dance, taking lessons and performing on stage at the glittering Miller Theater in downtown Wichita. At the age of 15 in 1921, she left Wichita to launch a career as a Denishawn Dancer with Ruth St. Denis in New York. At the age of 18, she was chosen by Flo Ziegfield as one of six Cosmopolitan Girls for his production of "Louie the 14th." The following year, 1925, she was put under contract to Famous Players-Lasky and began her film career with "The Street of Forgotten Men."

That was the era when New York was the hub of film activity, but she would later join Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles during Hollywood's so-called Golden Era.

Her film career spanned 13 years and 24 films, making the transition from silent films to talkies. Not many of them are remembered, but some of the early titles hint at the gaudy, decadent era of the 1920s and 1930s they reflected: "Evening Clothes," "Rolled Stockings" and "The City Gone Wild." She was in "A Girl in Every Port" with Victor McLaglen and in "Beggars of Life" with Wallace Berry and Richard Arlen.

But She refused to play by Hollywood rules. Disenchanted with the American film industry, at age 24 she went to Europe. It was there that she made "Pandora's Box" and its sequel, "Diary of a Lost Girl," for German director G.B. Pabst, creating her best known screen role: the amoral profligate and indelible Lulu.

In recent decades, she contributed articles to film magazines based on her recollection and reminiscences of that heady period of the 1920s and 1930s. She moved to Rochester in 1958 because of Eastman's film archives where she could research her writings.

Survivors include a sister, June Lashley of San Jose, Calif.; two nephews, Daniel Brooks of Wichita and Robert Brooks of St. Louis and two nieces, Rose Brooks of Wichita and Pam Eisenmann of Hollister, Calif.

Services are pending. She will be cremated, and her ashes will be placed in Holy Sepulchur Cemetery in Rochester. Family members in Wichita said they did not know whether there would be a memorial service here.

Wichita Eagle-Beacon, August 9, 1985

Louise Brooks, 78, Rebel Star Who Didn't Shine In Hollywood

From Chicago Tribune wires

Rochester, N.Y.--Silent film star Louise Brooks, a cult figure in Europe and the United States who shunned Hollywood after appearing in two dozen films in the 1920s and '30s, has died of a heart attack. She was 78.

Miss Brooks was found dead Thursday in her small apartment when she was brought breakfast. The frail woman, who relatives said suffered from arthritis and emphysema, died of a heart attack, said a medical examiner's spokesman.

The daughter of a Kansas lawyer, Miss Brooks began her career as a dancer while still in her teens. She appeared on stage in New York in the Ziegfeld Follies and George White's Scandals.

"I learned to act while watching Martha Graham dance, and I learned to move in film from watching Chaplin," she once said.

After her film debut in 1925, she quickly gained stardom and a following for her work in the flapper movies of the era. She appeared in the 1928 films "A Girl in Every Port" and "Beggars of Life."

Miss Brooks, a free spirit known for her independence and open contempt for the American film industry, later said her intelligence and seriousness were handicaps in her American film career.

"I found myself looked upon as a literary wonder because I read books," she recalled in her memoirs.

In the late 1920s, she went to Europe, where she remains popular though rivivals of her films. German director G.W. Pabst guided her as the character Lulu in "Pandora's Box" and "Diary of a Lost Girl" in 1929. Both films are now considered classics.

On her return to Hollywood, she appeared in only minor roles, including a bit part in "The Public Enemy" in 1931, and retired after making minor westerns. Her last film was "Overland Stage Riders" with John Wayne, made in 1938.

Miss Brooks was born in Cherryvale, Kan., in 1906, and moved with her parents to Wichita in 1919. She spoke of her distain for her Kansas roots in a New Yorker profile by Kenneth Tynan in 1978.

"The citizens of Wichita either resented me for having been a success or despised me for being a failure," she said. "And I wasn't exactly enchanted with them."

Miss Brooks was rediscovered in New York in 1955 by James Card, a curator of the George Eastman House museum in Rochester.

At Card's urging, she moved to Rochester in 1956 to research films at the Eastman House archives for articles she wrote for several film journals. In 1982 she published "Lulu in Hollywood," a collection of essays on her life.

Miss Brooks was married for a few years in the mid-1920s to Eddie Sutherland, who directed her in "It's the Old Army Game" with W.C. Fields. She also was married to Chicago playboy Deering Davis in 1933 but left after a few months.

Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1985.

Entry: Brooks, Louise - Newspaper articles

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: August 2002

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.