This documentary, originally made for Turner Classic Movies and financed by Hugh Hefner, was directed by Hugh Munro Neely. Neely has made documentaries of other silent era actresses, including Mary Pickford, writer Frances Marion, actresses Olive Thomas, Clara Bow, Marion Davies and others. Written by Brooks biographer Barry Paris and narrated by Shirley MacLaine, the documentary includes interviews with actress Dana Delany, actor Roddy McDowall, archivist and historian Paolo Cherchi Usai, niece Roseanna Brooks (brother Theodore’s daughter), sister-in-law Margaret Brooks (Theodore’s wife), Denishawn dancer Jane Sherman Lehac, lyricist Adolph Green, composer David Diamond, friend Kaye MacRae, author John Springer, friend Bill Klein, and actor Francis Lederer.
Born 14 November 1906, Louise Brooks grew up in Cherryvale, Kansas, and thereafter moved to Wichita, where she eventually saw a touring performance of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn’s artistic Denishawn dance troupe. At 15, Louise joined Denishawn in New York. At 17, she was fired by St. Denis. Barbara Bennett would help Louise find work as a dancer on Broadway, which eventually led to Hollywood.
The documentary covers the expanse of her career from Kansas, New York, Hollywood and Berlin, and the humiliating contraction from Europe to Hollywood to New York and back to Kansas. As rapidly successful as she was, she was nearly as quickly a failure. The Brooks art of living life was eventually somehow incompatible with the world’s everyday living of life. Paolo Cherchi Usai’s makes the observation that “getting close to Louise Brooks was like getting close to a tornado,” noting that her troubles were largely of her own making. Diamond describes her as “a lost soul.”
Neely touches in passing on Brooks’ failed marriage to director Eddie Sutherland, and her famous affairs with Charles Chaplin, producer Walter Wanger, William Paley, and others of wealth and power.
Louise eventually sought to escape from the bewildering circumstances of life via a gin bottle, a frustrating choice for so bright a woman. Eventually, like Lulu, she would again rely on men for her maintenance, as she did on broadcasting executive William Paley and ultimately on archivist James Card. At the end, Brooks considered herself a total failure. “. . . I do not excuse myself with the usual escape of not trying. I tried with all my heart.” — Carl Bennett
The Criterion Collection
2006 DVD edition
Pandora’s Box (1929), black & white, 133 minutes, not rated,
with Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu (1998), color and black & white, 60 minutes, not rated.
The Criterion Collection, CC1656D [spine number 358],
UPC 7-15515-02062-6, ISBN 1-9341-2104-5.
Windowboxed 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 1, 7 Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, two cardboard wraps with plastic DVD trays and supplemental book in cardboard slipcase, $39.95.
Release date: 28 November 2006.
Country of origin: USA
This high-quality edition has the advantage over the earlier home video edition by virtue of its grouping with another Brooks documentary and with her most famous film.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
1999 DVD edition
Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu(1998), black & white, 60 minutes, not rated.
Image Entertainment, ID5673DLDVD, UPC 0-14381-56732-8.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 8 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, snapper DVD case, $19.99.
Release date: 29 June 1999.
Country of origin: USA
This early edition of the documentary is still available, but the above Criterion release is recommended for its extra value.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Second Sight Films
2002 DVD edition
Pandora’s Box (1929), black & white, 131 minutes, BBFC Classification PG,
with Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu (1998), black & white, ? minutes, not rated.
Second Sight Films, 2NDVD3036, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 PAL, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, German? language intertitles, German and English? language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase?, £19.99.
Release date: 24 June 2002.
Country of origin: United Kingdom
This edition also contains the documentary Looking for Lulu, narrated by Shirley MacLaine, and an interview with Louise Brooks.
North American collectors will need a region-free PAL DVD player capable of outputting an NTSC-compatible signal to view this edition.
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0PAL DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.