Louise Brooks was born in Cherryvale, Kansas on November 14, 1906. She began dancing at an early age, and at age 15, moved to New York City to study with and then join the Denishawn Dance Company. The prestigious ensemble, which included future great Martha Graham, toured the United States and Canada for two seasons, and performed in numerous cities and towns in New York. Their Rochester stops included performances at the Eastman Theater on November 1, 1922 and November 21, 1923. Following her departure from Denishawn, Brooks danced in the chorus of the George White Scandals and then Ziegfeld Follies in New York City.
In 1925, Brooks signed a contract with Paramount Pictures; her first film was an uncredited bit part in "The Street of Forgotten Men." Subsequent films made on the East Coast include "The American Venus" (1926), "A Social Celebrity" (1926), "Its the Old Army Game" (1926, with W.C. Fields) and "Love Em and Leave Em" (1926). After moving to Hollywood, Brooks appeared in "A Girl in Every Port" (1928), "Beggars of Life" (1928), and "The Canary Murder Case" (1929), among other films. All of these movies were shown locally at the Eastman, Family, Piccadilly, Regent, or Strand theaters during the 1920s.
It is well known that Brooks' irreverence and intelligence did not sit well with the men who were running Hollywood. After being denied a raise, the actress quit Paramount and worked in Europe where she made the three films upon which her reputation rests, two German productions "Pandora's Box" (1929) and "Diary of a Lost Girl" (1929), and an early French sound film, "Prix de Beaute" (1930). On her return to Hollywood, she had trouble finding work, and only appeared in minor roles in lesser films, such as the pre-code farce "God's Gift to Women" (1931), and her last film, "Overland Stage Raiders" (1938), a western starring John Wayne.
After years of obscurity, some of it spent living in NYC, Brooks struck up a relationship with James Card, then the film curator of the George Eastman House. In 1956, at Card's urging, she moved to the city to view and research film at the Eastman House. Her resulting articles were published in various film journals at home and abroad, and were later collected into "Lulu in Hollywood," a 1982 collection of essays.
Louise Brooks lived in Rochester from 1956 until her death of a heart attack on August 8, 1985. Her death was front page news in Rochester, and made headlines around the world. In the fall of 1985, the University of Rochester screened a series of Brooks' films to commemorate the then recently deceased actress. In 1989, a biography by Barry Paris was published to wide acclaim. In 1995, the Louise Brooks Society was formed to honor the legacy of the dancer and actress. (That website contains a detailed chronology of Brooks' life which includes many references to Rochester.) In 1998, Turner Classic Movies debuted a documentary, "Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu." Since then, additional books, DVDs, exhibits, films, and film retrospectives have celebrated the actress, who is now considered a 20th century icon.
Some of Brooks' papers and personal effects are housed at the George Eastman House, now the George Eastman Museum. Over the years, all of Brooks' surviving films have been shown at Eastman at its Dryden Theatre, and in 2006, to mark the centenary of the actress, the museum mounted an exhibit celebrating her career.
WNY Newspaper Articles About Louise Brooks
Anonymous. "Louise Brooks, Latest Find, Enters Movies as a Dancer." Utica Daily Press, June 19, 1925.
Anonymous. "Star Lights." Syracuse Herald, March 5, 1926.
Clune, Henry. "Seen and Heard." Democrat & Chronicle, October 25, 1959.
Anonymous. "Screen Star." [Rochester Catholic Diocese] Courier Journal, April 12, 1963.
Price, Theodore. "Louise Brooks- alias Dixie Dugan- ... in Rochester...." Democrat & Chronicle, Nov 5, 1972.
Garner, Jack. "Portraits from Memory." Democrat & Chronicle, March 28, 1982.
Garner, Jack. "A Golden Age gala." Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, November 6, 1982.
Garner, Jack. "Curtain calls from a Hollywood past." Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Nov 7, 1982.
Garner, Jack. "Recalling the artistry of Louise Brooks." Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 22, 1984.
Garner, Jack. "A sadness for what might have been . . . ." Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, August 9, 1985.
Pittman, Mark. "'Oh, she could tell a story,' says neighbor." Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, August 9, 1985.
Garner, Jack. "Louise Brooks dies." Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, August 9, 1985.
Anonymous. "Glamour faded." Rochester Times Union editorial, August 13, 1985.
Anonymous. "Greece Resident Was Special Fan of Louise Brooks." Greece Post, August 13, 1985.
Anonymous. "Eastman House given actress collection." Utica Daily Press, April 19, 1986.
Paris, Barry. "Lulu in Rochester." American Film, September, 1986.
Paris, Barry. "Sincerely, Louise." Democrat & Chronicle, November 19, 1986.
Simon, Jeff. "She Was the Real Lulu." Buffalo News, April 20, 1990.
Chase, Anthony. "Louise Brooks, A Rare Film Treat." Buffalo News, April 22, 1990.