July 19, 1982 12:00 PM

by Louise Brooks

The author, a dancer who was born in Kansas and was featured in the Ziegfeld Follies, made a few silly Hollywood films in the 1920s and ’30s. In Germany, she made the more serious Pandora’s Box (in which she was Lulu) and Diary of a Lost Girl. Brooks was a flapper, utterly casual about her career, who retired by 1940. But in the 1950s the film curator of Eastman House encouraged her to move to Rochester, N.Y., where the photography museum is located. Since then Brooks, now 75, has become interested in film as art and has written the essays that make up this book. She explains, with insight and few illusions, the careers of Wallace Beery, Bogart, W.C. Fields, Garbo, Lillian Gish and others. In passages about Marion Davies, Brooks not only defines the actress’s curious affair with Hearst—he financed and gave free publicity to her pictures—but also reveals the corruption rampant in Hollywood in the ’20s. (Producers made arbitrary additions to the budgets of low-cost films and pocketed the excess.) She concludes: “Anyone who has achieved excellence in any form knows that it comes as a result of ceaseless concentration. Paying attention.” Brooks paid attention, remembered, and has written beautifully about her experiences. This may be the best book ever about early Hollywood. (Knopf, $15)

You May Like