Wednesday, 7 May 2008
The Bob and the Books
The above is an image of the actress Louise Brooks relaxing between takes and surrounded by books. This image, and Brooks herself, first came to my attention via the cover to the NYRB Classics edition of The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares.
This is a fantastic (in both senses) and haunting book, inspired by Casares' obsession with Brooks, about a strange island, a weird invention, cinema, and hopeless love.
Intrigued by the image, I found out rather more about Brooks, including her most famous role as Lulu in Pandora's Box (1929), from the Frank Wedekind play.
Brooks had a unique, fascinating and mildly unsettling look; her haircut and pale features made her famous. A number of books about her all use photos of her from her 1920s heyday on their covers.
More interestingly, Brooks became an author herself. Her film career was cut short after she made rather too many enemies of powerful Hollywood producers. One of her books is aimed at a very specific niche...
..but rather more significant is her well-written and fascinating autobiography, which covers early Hollywood and the film world of Weimar Germany. Again, the cover images for this book's various editions use images from the 1920s.
That face and that hair are very distinctive, so the most recent edition of her memoirs stepped away from the photographic with an elegant bit of simple, evocative illustration.
UPDATE: The infinitely wise John Self noted in the comments that one of these Louise Brooks photos was also used on the cover of the Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics edition of the Scott Fitzgerald story collection, Bernice Bobs Her Hair.
This is not the only time Penguin have used a "difficult" actress of powerful sexuality on the cover of a Fitzgerald book--Tallulah Bankhead is on the current edition of The Beautiful and the Damned.
UPDATE 2: Jessie and Steve noted in the comments that Marj-Jo Bang's narrative poem collection Louise in Love also features Louise Brooks (and seems to have inspired the central character of the poems).