Atrue icon of the silent cinema, Louise Brooks came to embody the giddy yet self-conscious insouciance of the late Jazz era. An irresistible beauty whose signature bobbed hair and dancer's grace were accoutrements of her dangerous charm, Brooks is best remembered today for her roles as an indomitable spirit in G. W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929). Despite her radiant presence in Pabst's films, Brooks acting career quickly lost momentum in the 1930s through a series of mishaps and miscastings, leading her to effectively retire from the screen in 1938. A multi-talented artist, Brooks reinvented herself as a writer in her later years, crafting a body of marvelous essays on the cinema and autobiographical prose that are as revered today as her acting career.
In order to reevaluate Louise Brooks' accomplishments as an actress and icon, the HFA presents two of her lesser known yet essential films – Howard Hawks' silent classic A Girl In Every Port and Brooks' first talkie, The Canary Murder Case, a delightful and woefully underrated detective tale.
A Girl in Every Port and The Canary Murder Case have been preserved by and come from the collection of the George Eastman House.
Directed by Howard Hawks
With Louise Brooks, Victor McLaglen
US 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 64 min.
A rousing action comedy, A Girl In Every Port is arguably
quintessential Howard Hawks film, one of the earliest to fully explore the themes of male bonding and sexual relations that would preoccupy the director throughout his entire career. Brooks plays Marie, a protofemme fatale who lures sailors to commit acts of folly. Brooks' wonderful turn in the film brought her to Pabst's attention and rocketed her to sudden celebrity.
Directed by Malcolm St. Clair
With Louise Brooks, William Powell, Jean Arthur
US 1929, 35mm, b/w, 82 min.
One of Paramount's biggest hits of 1929, The Canary Murder Case is a wonderful example of the sophisticated brand of comedy that remained extremely popular in the years leading up to the Production Code. One of Hollywood's earliest private eye films, The Canary Murder Case stars William Powell as the debonair detective Phil Vance, investigating the suspicious career of the eponymous Canary (Brooks), an immoral nightclub singer with a cast of impatient lovers. The script, co-written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, sparkles with sexual innuendo. Brooks' refusal to dub her own voice when Paramount decided to turn the film into a talkie helped alienate her from the studios.