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Louise Brooks (1906-1985)

Born Mary Louise Brooks on November 14, 1906 in Cherryvale, Kansas. She was the second of four children. At age 4, Louise made her first public appearance, playing a pint-sized bride in a church benefit production of Tom Thumb's Wedding. She was however, a very normal child. She loved making mud pies and began taking dance lessons. By the age of 10, Louise starting dancing at local fairs, theaters, men's and women's clubs, and other gatherings in Kansas. At 11, she was dancing on a regular basis, performing recitals and programs at the Cherryvale Opera House. In 1919 at the age of 13, her family moved to Independence, Kansas. Louise continued to focus on her dancing skills and with her bobbed hair and captivating looks, she was turning heads at her high school. Soon after, she and her family moved to Wichita. A pivotal point in her life occurred when her mother enrolled her into the famed Ruth Saint-Denis and Ted Shawn's dance school in New York City. At 15, she left her native Kansas for New York. Louise was way ahead of the other dancers and performers of her generation. In 1923, as the youngest dancer in her troupe, she toured the United States and Canada with Martha Graham and the Denishawn dancers by train and played to a different town every night. By 1925, the Charleston craze had swept the nation. During that year, Louise returned to New York and became a member of the Zeigfield Follies. Also in 1925, she signed a 5 year contract with Paramount Studios and appeared in her first film, The Streets of Forgotten Men. In 1926, at the age of 20, she was featured as a flapper on the cover of A Social Celebrity magazine. This launched her modeling and film career and introduced the flapper era. When talkies exploded onto the screen and Paramount used her voice as an excuse to not give her a raise, she shocked the studio system by walking out on her contract. Her seemingly effortless incarnation of sensuality attracted the attention of German director G.W. Pabst who cast her as Lulu in the movie Pandora's Box(1929). Pandora's Box has been hailed as a masterpiece of silent cinema. In 1930 her return to the Hollywood that she so deeply rejected was the first step in her decline. After appearing in several B movie roles, she permenately abandoned the cinema world in 1938. She emerged in the 1950s-1970s as a respected, articulate historian and writer when a revival of the silent film era opened in the film industry. In 1982, three years before her death, she published Lulu In Hollywood, a reflection on her career. Louise Brooks is still considered the silver screen cult figure who brought the flapper girl image to life. She is still a major influence on women today.

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