a monthly look at the faces that have made history

Louise Brooks

"There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks," Henri Langlois once said, and the French film historian's words have never been more apt than today. Flip open any magazine this season, and you'll see models working the silent film star's trademark: a blunt, lacquer-dark bob cut with such graphic precision that her admirer Kenneth Tynan dubbed it a "black helmet." Underneath was a hard-boiled obstinacy as sharp as her porcelain cheekbones and smoldering eyes. Brooks' liberated approach to sex and love—she had affairs with Charlie Chaplin and William Paley (who would become her benefactor)—was echoed in her choice of films. The onetime Ziegfeld girl made less than two dozen movies before being blacklisted by Hollywood, in part for her role in 1929's notoriously salacious Pandora's Box but also because she declined to do the newfangled "talkies." Since then, she's inspired a comic strip (Dixie Dugan), a play (Show Girl), a sci-fi novel (The Invention of Morel, later adapted into the movie Last Year at Marienbad), songs by OMD and Soul Coughing, and now, on the hundredth anniversary of her birth in Kansas, a new book by her friend Peter Cowie, Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever.

—Laird Borrelli

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