Louise Brooks
The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty.

splash  A homage is a kind of tribute, something meant to honor or show appreciation for someone or something. In the arts, a homage is an allusion to or imitation of one artist by another. A homage can take many forms, from an original composition or sampling of a work to a casual reference, mention, or “shout out”.

Over the years, numerous artists and individuals have paid homage to Louise Brooks and the character she so memorably played in Pandora’s Box, Lulu. From characters in movies, novels, plays, and comics — to poems, songs, art, and fashion — Brooks has been the subject of tributes ranging across high art and popular culture. Aside from Charlie Chaplin, no silent film star — and few actors or actresses of today — have received so much cultural and creative recognition. Arguably, Brooks has become a 20th century icon, even something of a muse.

Homages to the actress go back to the late 1920s, though most date from the last 30 years. The best known of the early homages is J.P. McEvoy’s bestselling novels, Show Girl (1928) and Hollywood Girl (1929). The books’ main character, Dixie Dugan, was loosely based on Brooks and her time as a showgirl and aspiring actress. In fact, when first serialized in magazines and newspapers, McEvoy’s stories were illustrated with look-alike drawings of Brooks. What’s more, the novels were spun-off into a comic strip which ran until 1966. Though Dugan’s look changed over time, her appearance early-on bears a striking resemblance to the actress; some early panels of the newspaper comic strip mimicked movie stills from  Brooks’ films. Later, McEvoy’s novels were adapted into two movies, Show Girl and Show Girl in Hollywood, as well as a popular stage play.

The best known contemporary tribute may be Laura Moriarty’s novel, The Chaperone, whose story centers on Brooks’ leaving home at age 15 to join the Denishawn Dance Company. Brooks also shows up in the works of the popular writer Neil Gaiman, as a character in a Dr. Who comic book, and in recent songs by Rufus Wainwright and Natalie Merchant. Brooks’ has also been referenced on episodes of the The Simpsons and Lost, and appears in scenes from the celebrated French film Blue is the Warmest Color.

This section of the Louise Brooks Society website highlights some of the many artistic tributes and cultural references to the actress, from the 1920s through today. These instances of homage are organized somewhat chronologically within their respective genre. Know of another tribute to Louise Brooks? We would love to hear about it. Please let us know by contacting the LBS.

 

  THE MOVIES

— A small boat seen in Now We’re in the Navy (1926) is named the “S.S. Louise”. The film was directed by Eddie Sutherland, Brooks’ husband at the time.

— In Dangerous Female (1931), the first film version of The Maltese Falcon, Brooks is pictured as Sam Spade’s girlfriend.

— A photograph of Brooks is displayed in Zouzou (1934), a French production starring Josephine Baker.

— The femme fatale played by Cyd Charisse in Singin in the Rain (1952) was modeled after Brooks.

— Anna Karina’s characters in Jean Luc Godard’s Une Femme est une Femme (1961) and Vivre sa Vie (1962) were modeled after Brooks.

— According to Liza Minnelli, her approach to her role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1972) was inspired on Brooks.

— In Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986), Melanie Griffith plays a femme fatale who calls herself “Lulu” and adopts a bobbed haircut like Brooks.

Stephanie BeroesThe Dream Screen (1986) juxtaposes a contemporary narrative with excerpts from Pandora’s Box.

— Paul Auster’s film, Lulu on the Bridge (1998), features a character acting in a remake of Pandora’s Box.

— A photographs of Brooks is displayed in the dressing room of the character played by bobbed Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago (2002).

— Brooks was mentioned by Mr. Burns on an episode of The Simpsons (2002).

— The Eddie Muller short The Grand Inquisitor (2008) features a Brooks’ inspired character named Lulu.

— Isabella Rossellini’s costume in Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair (2009) was based on Brooks’ costume in Diary of a Lost Girl, according to director Guy Maddin.

— A photograph of Brooks is shown in the Martin Scorcese film, Hugo (2011).

— The edition of The Invention of Morel with the Brooks cover was flashed on the hit TV show Lost in an episode aired in 2012.

— Images of Brooks are seen a number of times in the French film Blue is the Warmest Color (2013).

— In 2013, the press carried reports that Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes would script Laura Moriarty’s bestselling novel, The Chaperone, as a feature film, with Elizabeth McGovern in the title role. Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) is set to direct.

—  Over the years, many actresses have stated in print their desire to play Brooks on the big screen, including Shirley MacLaine, Julie Roberts, Dana Delaney, Winona Ryder and Neve Campbell, to name a few.

 

  BOOKS & LITERATURE 

Fiction

— Brooks was the inspiration behind Show Girl (1928) and Hollywood Girl (1929), two bestselling comedic novels by J.P. McEvoy. Each was serialized in Liberty magazine and later widely syndicated in dozens of American newspapers.

— Brooks is mentioned in Love Letters of an Interior Decorator (1928), a comedic novel by Bert Green. The story mentions and even pictures Brooks, and also notes her appearance in Beggars of Life.

— According to the Argentine author Adolfo Bioy Casares, the character of Faustine in his 1940 novel The Invention of Morel was inspired by Brooks. One of the very first works of magic realism, The Invention of Morel reportedly influenced both Alain Resnais’ film Last Year at Marienbad (1961) as well as the popular American television show, Lost. (READ MORE)

— A character named Louise Brooks, who happens to resemble the actress, plays an important role in Willem Frederik Hermans’ The Saint of the Clockmakers (1987), a philosophical novel considered one of the finest works by one of the most important Dutch novelists of the post WWII era.

— Brooks is mentioned in a number of contemporary American novels, including Paul Auster’s Leviathan (1992). Brooks is also a minor character in William Hjortsberg’s Nevermore (1994), which is set during the Jazz Age; the actress also appears on the cover of the English edition of the book.

— Other contemporary writers who have included Brooks in various novels or stories are Janet Fitch (White Oleander), Ann-Marie MacDonald (Fall on Your Knees), Jerry Stahl (I, Fatty), Theodore Roszak (Flicker) and Salmon Rushdie (The Ground Beneath Her Feet), as well as Audrey Niffenegger, Roddy Doyle, Gary Indiana, Mary Lee Settle and a few dozen others.

— Brooks plays a big part in one of the stories in Ali Smith’s debut collection Free Love and Other Stories (1995). The actress also appeared on the cover of the book at the author’s insistence.

— Brooks is mentioned or a minor character in a number of genre novels or novels by genre writers including Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula (1992), Nancy Baker’s Kiss of the Vampire (1995), and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (2001). In the latter novel, the character named Czernobog refers to Brooks as the greatest movie star of all time. In Houdini Heart (2011), a novel of supernatural horror, author Ki Longfellow uses Brooks as a character in the lead character’s visions. Brooks is also referenced in works by Fritz Leiber, Jr., Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Elizabeth Hand, and Lemony Snicket.

— A novel by the French author Patrick Mosconi is titled Louise Brooks Est Morte (1993). Brooks is featured both in and on the cover of two contemporary French novels, Embrassez-moi by Katherine Pancol (2003), and Le Manuscrit Louise B by Matthieu Baumier (2005). Brooks is also name-checked in two novels by Michel Mohrt, La Guerre Civile (1986) and Un Soir, à Londres (1991). One of the earliest references to Brooks in French literature is in Leon Bopp ‘s novel, Jacques Arnaut (1933).

— The story of Brooks joining the Denishawn Dance Company is the basis of Laura Moriarty’s bestselling novel, The Chaperone (2012). Brooks is also the main character in Lulu, by Samuel Bernstein (2010).

— In Gayle Forman’s popular YA novels Just One Day and Just One Year (both 2013), the bobbed hair female protagonist is called “Lulu”. The film Pandora’s Box is mentioned in both books.

Non-fiction

— The famed humorist S.J. Perelman was a fan, and he wrote a piece about Brooks for the The New Yorker in 1969 in which he referred to the actress as ” . . . the immortal Louise Brooks.”

— In the realm of non-fiction, Brooks shows up more than once in the works of Hilton Als, Greil Marcus, Jerome Charyn, Kenneth Tynan, Folke Isaksson and others, as well as in various non-fiction works (essays, memoirs, letters) by fiction writers like Angela Carter, Carlos Fuentes, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Christopher Isherwood, Carl Sandburg, Anita Loos, Henry Clune, and even Robert Howard (author of Conan the Barbarian).

— Pulitzer Prize winning novelist John Updike reviewed Brooks’ Lulu in Hollywood (1985). Updike has stated that Brooks was the finest writer to ever come out of Hollywood.

Poetry

— Riffing on the Brooks’ film, Frank O’Hara wrote a poem titled “F.Y.I. (PRIX DE BEAUTE)” (1961). Another poet associated with the New York School, Bill Berkson, also wrote a poem inspired by Brooks, “Bubbles” (early 1960’s). Additionally, Brooks is pictured in a book of 1978 film-inspired poems by Edward Field.

— Other poems about or alluding to Brooks include “The Touch of a Glance” (1970s) by the French Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, “Watching Young Couples with an Old Girlfriend On Sunday Morning” (1997), by the American poet August Kleinzahler, and “Louise Brooks” (2008) by William Logan. As well as poems by Alexander Theroux, Stuart Mitchner, Ronald McGregor and others.

Louise in Love (2001), a book of related poems by the acclaimed contemporary poet Mary Jo Bang, was inspired by Brooks.

Drama

— Yvonne Rainer’s performance piece Lives of Performers (1971) includes a homage to Brooks in which Rainer reenacts a series of production stills from  Pandora’s Box.

— Kathy Acker’s performed but never published Lulu Unchained (1984) was inspired by Brooks and Wedekind’s Lulu plays.

Yours, Lulu: Broadway to Berlin is based on the life of Brooks; the play was staged in New York and Los Angeles in 1993 and 1994.

— Janet Musil’s Emphysema (2000), based on the relationship between Brooks and Kenneth Tynan, was staged in Canada and England under the title Smoking with Lulu.

— Brooks is the main character in a work called Jazz Age Musical, performed in Switzerland in 1999.

— A one person piece, Elle! Louise Brooks, was written and performed by Hanna Schygulla in Italy and France in 2000.

— In 2006, the Silent Film Theater of Chicago toured the United States with Lulu: A black and white silent play.

In Books

— Brooks has been featured on the cover of a number of books not related to the actress or even to film, including Loot, a work of pulp fiction published in 1932.

 

  COMIX

— Brooks was the inspiration behind Dixie Dugan, the comic strip by J.P. McEvoy and John H. Striebel which ran from 1929 to 1966.

Valentina was the name of a long-running erotic comix by the Italian artist Guido Crepax; the series began publication in 1965 and continued for many years. (In the United States, Valentina appeared in Heavy Metal magazine.) Crepax corresponded with Brooks late in her life.

— The character of Death in the Sandman books by Neil Gaiman was originally based on Brooks.

— Brooks is popular among European comix artists. Hugo Pratt, another celebrated Italian artist, found inspiration in Brooks and drew her likeness into various works and named characters after her. Two French graphic novels, Olivia Sturgess 1914-2004 (2005) by Floc’h, and Louise et les loups (2012), by Marion Mousse, were each inspired by Brooks and her look.

— Brooks is a character and appears on the cover of a Dr. Who comic, Silver Scream (2009). [The eighth Doctor, actor Paul McGann, is also a big fan of the actress.]

— In 2015, graphic novelist Rick Geary authored the book-length Louse Brooks: Detective.

 

  THE VISUAL ARTS

— Famed illustrator Alberto Vargas painted Brooks in the mid-1920’s. There were other artistic renderings of Brooks from the time, including a caricature by the celebrated illustrator Ralph Barton.

— Brooks’ likeness is incorporated into a 1929 photo-montage by the Bauhaus associated artist Herbert Bayer. She can also be found in a collage (c. 1930) by the English artist Edward Burra.

— The British artist Frank Martin drew Brooks on a few occasions (c. 1974), one of which is in the collection of the Tate in London.

— The acclaimed artist Don Bachardy made a few drawings of Brooks in the mid-1970s, which along with his diary entries about the actress are included in his book, Stars in My Eyes.

— Famed caricaturist David Levine drew a likeness of Brooks which appeared in the New York Review of Books (1982), and has been subsequently reproduced on calendars, postcards and other print media.

— Like Cindy Sherman, photographer Rita Hammond used masks and costumes to embark upon identity-blurring pictorial masquerades by casting herself as individuals of symbolic force, including Brooks.

— Artist Mark Tansey’s 2004 painting,”West Face”, includes Brooks, according to the New York Times.

— Two watercolors (2014) by the contemporary artist Max Ferguson feature Brooks.

— The 2015 staging of Alban Berg’s opera, Lulu, by artist William Kentridge, owes a little to Brooks, whom Kentridge acknowledges as an inspiration.

 

  MUSIC

— The first rock music nod to Brooks may be from The Freeze, a Scottish punk band. In 1980, they released a 7″ EP featuring the song “Celebration”, which the back cover notes is “dedicated to Louise Brooks who inspired this song.” Composer Gordon Sharp reportedly sent the recording to the actress. The earliest rock music video featuring footage of Brooks may be “It Hurts” by the Lotus Eaters, from 1985.

News for Lulu (1988) is an album of hard bop compositions performed by the avant-jazz trio of John Zorn, George Lewis and Bill Frisell. More News for Lulu (1989) is a follow-up of live recordings. Brooks adorns the cover and linear notes of each recording.

— The British new wave group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) released a hit single called “Pandora’s Box” (1991) as a Brooks tribute. The lyrics are about the actress, and the video for the song uses footage of Brooks.

— International songs referencing Brooks include Jen Anderson’s “Lulu the song” (1993) from her Australian Pandora’s Box soundtrack; “Lulu” (1995) from the Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Hawkins; and “Interior Lulu” (1999) by the British prog-rock band Marillion. Another prog-rock band, TIMELOCK, from The Netherlands, released two songs about the actress, “Louise Brooks” from their 1994 album Louise Brooks, and “Louise Brooks Revisited” from a 2002 album. In 2014, Scottish singer songwriter Louise Rutkowski released Diary of a Lost Girl. That same year, the Tiger Lillies released Lulu – A Murder Ballad. In 2015, Wurlitza, a five piece band from the UK, released their original soundtrack to the Brooks’ film, Diary of a Lost Girl. And on a different note, there’s “Louise Brooks: Lulu’s Ragtime” (2007) by the Vienna Art Orchestra. As well, Brooks appears on the cover of Eliogabablus (1990), by the Italian-Slovenian experimental rock band Devil Doll. While a few images of Brooks appear in the video of Caro Emerald’s “Tangled Up” (2013).

— Brooks may be more popular in France than just about anywhere. Among the French acts that have recorded tributes to the actress is the musette revival band Les Primitifs Du Futur (whose line-up includes famed cartoonist Robert Crumb); in 2006, they reworked the theme song from Prix de Beauté into “Chanson pour Louise Brooks”. Among other French recordings there is “Louise Brooks” by Lady Godiva, from their 1999 release Louise Brooks Avenue, “Actress (Louise Brooks theme)” by Nouvelle Culture from 2005, and Olivia Louvel’s “Lulu a Hollywood” from her 2007 album, Lulu in Suspension.

— Soul Coughing’s 1998 song “St. Louise Is Listening” contains several references to Brooks. Composer Mike Doughty sports a Brooks’ tattoo.

— A number of indie acts have recorded tracks referencing Brooks, including Sarah Azzara’s “Like Louise Brooks” (2000), Paul Hayes’ “Louise Brooks” (2003), Gosta Berling’s “Berlin” (2008), and Ross Berkal’s ballad “MLB (for Louise Brooks)” from 2010.

— Rufus Wainwright’s 2010 recording, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu, is an acknowledged tribute to Brooks. The Lou Reed / Metallica collaboration, Lulu (2011), can also be regarded as a more oblique homage to Brooks.

— Natalie Merchant’s self-titled 2014 album contains “Lulu”, a song which is a biographical sketch of Brooks.

— Performers who have sported bobbed hair and name checked Brooks include Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and The Banshees, country music star Lorrie Morgan, singers Linda Rondstadt and Kylie Minogue, and pop superstar Madonna.

 

  POP CULTURE

Fashion

— A French perfume, “LouLou”, from 1987, was inspired by Brooks.

— A Christian Dior advertisement from 1998 is a take off of the famous 1928 Eugene Richie photograph of Brooks posing with a string of pearls.

— Yuna Yang, a New York City-based fashion designer, stated that her 2010 line was inspired by Brooks and 1920’s fashion.

— In 2013, it was widely reported that Rihanna was modeling a coat by designer Jean Paul Gaultier which bears a likeness of Brooks.

— A number of celebrities — such as Juliette Binoche, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mischa Barton, and Natalie Portman, as well as Vogue magazine editor Anna Winotaur, have at times appeared in photo-shoots looking like Brooks or modeled their own appearance after the actress. Critic Kenneth Tynan was also photographed in drag made up like Brooks.

Other Tributes

— “Impasse Louise Brooks”, a street named after the actress, is located in Bois d’Arcy, a village outside of Paris.

— In the 1990s, a well known dominatrix named Mistress Lulu modeled herself after Brooks.

— Singer songwriter Mike Doughty sports a Brooks’ tattoo, which he has worn since the 1990s. More recently on social media sites, fans have posted images of their own Brooks’ tattoos.

— Graffiti and street art depicting Brooks has been documented in San Francisco, California and Paris, France and elsewhere.

— In recent years, shops in London and Rome have featured Brooks in window displays.

— A character modeled on Brooks has been spotted in Second Life, the 3D virtual world online computer game.