WEIRDLAND: Louise Brooks' Anniversary, Flappers & Philosophers (F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Louise Brooks' Anniversary, Flappers & Philosophers (F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald)

Happy Anniversary, Louise Brooks!

Louise Brooks — The stunning tastemaker of the ’20s & ’30s, who made women everywhere chop their hair, and created the bold and wildly popular “flapper girl” movement. Louise Brooks’ dark and exotic looks drew a throng of faithful followers that continues to this day. Early on her onscreen talent was often criticized for being somewhat lackluster– but all that changed with a trip to Berlin. Director G.W. Pabst cast her in two films– Pandora’s Box (1928), and Diary of a lost Girl (1929), that not only cast all doubts about her talent, it also rose her following to cult status. Source:

The flapper era was the time of the worship of youth. Flappers were women of the Jazz Age. Flappers had short hair worn no longer than chin length, called bobs. Their hair was often dyed and waved into flat, head-hugging curls and accessorized with wide, soft headbands. It was a new and most original style for women. A lot of make-up was worn by flappers that they even put on in public which was once unheard of and considered something done only by actresses and whores. Flappers wore short, straight dresses often covered with beads and fringes, usually without pantyhose. Young flappers were known to be very rebellious against their parents, and society blamed their waywardness partially on the media, movies, and film stars like Louise Brooks.

Louise Brooks was a big part of the Jazz Age and had a lot of influence on the women of the 1920 s. Being a film star with a great, original personality she is known for being one of the most extraordinary women to set forth the Flapper era. Her sleek and smooth looks with her signature bob helped define the flapper look. On November 14, 1906, in Cherryvale, Kansas, Mary Louise Brooks was born. In 1910, Brooks performed in her first stage role as Tom Thumb s bride in a Cherryvale church benefit. Over the next few years she danced at men s and women s clubs, fairs, and various other gatherings in southeastern Kansas. At ten years old she was already a serious dancer and very much interested in it. In 1920, Brook s family moved to Wichita, Kansas, and at 13 years old she began studying dance.

Louise Brooks had a typical education and family life. She was very interested in reading and the arts, so in 1922 she traveled to New York City and joined the Denishawn Dance Company. This was the leading modern dance company in America at the time. In 1923, Brooks toured the United States and Canada with Denishawn by train and played a different town nearly every night, but one year later she leaves Denishawn and moves back to New York City. Not too long after her return, she gets a job as a chorus girl in the George White Scandals. Following this she and a good friend of hers sailed to Europe. At 17 years old she gained employment at a leading London nightclub. She became famous in Europe as the first person to dance the Charleston in London, and her performances were great successes.

In 1925, Louise Brooks returned to New York and joins Ziegfeld Follier, and performed in the Ziegfeld production, Louie the 14th. That summer she had an affair with Charlie Chaplin. At the same time, Brooks also appeared in her first film, The Streets of Forgotten Men, and signed a five year contract with Paramount. This same year, she had her first appearance on a magazine cover.

In 1926, she featured as a flapper in A Social Celebrity which launched her film career and introduced the flapper era. Brooks considered F. Scott Fitzgerald had created the flapper figure, and she actually existed in "Scott Fitzgerald's mind and the antics he planted in his mad wife Zelda's mind." -“Flapper Culture and Style: Louise Brooks and the Jazz Age” (The Louise Brooks Society)

"Thrilling scandals by an anxious uncle," yawned Ardita. "Have it filmed. Wicked clubman making eyes at virtuous flapper. Virtuous flapper conclusively vamped by his lurid past. Plans to meet him at Palm Beach. Foiled by anxious uncle." "Will you tell me why the devil you want to marry him?" "I'm sure I couldn't say," said Audits shortly. "Maybe because he's the only man I know, good or bad, who has an imagination and the courage of his convictions. Maybe it's to get away from the young fools that spend their vacuous hours pursuing me around the country. But as for the famous Russian bracelet, you can set your mind at rest on that score. He's going to give it to me at Palm Beach... if you'll show a little intelligence." She put her chin in the air like the statue of France Aroused, and then spoiled the pose somewhat by raising the lemon for action. "Lucky girl," he sighed "I've always wanted to be rich and buy all this beauty." Ardita yawned. "I'd rather be you," she said frankly. "You would... for about a day. But you do seem to possess a lot of nerve for a flapper." -"Flappers and Philosophers" (1920) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

To their own surprise and delight, Scott and Zelda discovered that they were being heralded as models in the cult of youth. Scott was asked to lecture before audiences that were ready to adore him as their spokesman. A literary gossip column reported, “We watched him wave his cigarette at an audience one night not long ago, and capture them by nervous young ramblings, until he had the room (mostly ‘flappers’) swaying with delight. This admiration embarrassed him much —but after we had escaped into the outer darkness he acknowledged, with a grin, that he rather liked it.” Still he and Zelda were safe, Scott thought, “apart from all that,” and if the city bewitched them by offering fresh roles for them, they played them because “We felt like small children in a great bright unexplored barn.”

Zelda was asked by McCall’s magazine for a 2,500-word article on the modern flapper, and they offered her ten cents a word. In June the Metropolitan Magazine did publish her “Eulogy on the Flapper.” Above the article was a sketch of Zelda done by Gordon Bryant. Zelda wrote that the flapper was dead and that she grieved the passing of so original a model, for she saw in the flapper a code for living well: 'Perceiving these things, the Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-debism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure, she covered her face with powder and paint because she didn’t need it and she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring. She was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do. Mothers disapproved of their sons taking the Flapper to dances, to teas, to swim and most of all to heart. She had mostly masculine friends, but youth does not need friends—it needs only crowds.'  -"Zelda: A Biography" (2011) by Nancy Milford

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