They called her brilliant, but self-destructive. Her
smoldering sexuality could not be hidden from the camera. She coupled with some of the
most regarded men of her generation. You'd think by this description that another
loving portrait of Marilyn Monroe is about to hit the small screen, but you're wrong.
The second original production by Turner Classic Movies will focus on the silent-screen
siren nicknamed "Lulu."
Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu profiles a woman whose
talents prompted raves in her day, yet whose work in the United States has all but
crumbled to dust due to lack of preservation.
Brooks was a damaged creature before she ever hit the
stage. She had a brilliant but cold mother who exposed all of her children to great books,
music and theater. But her lack of emotional support molded Brooks for all time. When the
child was molested at the age of nine by a Kansas neighbor, Myra Brooks condemned her as a
seductress. It was an image that she would live down all of her life.
Brooks escaped Kansas as a dancer and performed in the
Ziegfeld Follies, bedding her first famous love, Charlie Chaplin, before she was 20. With
her shiny brunette bob and smoky eyes, her beauty attracted Hollywood, then the German
cinema, where she did her most famous work. Her arrogance and willfulness eventually ended
her career as an actress. But Brooks resurrected herself as a self-biographer and cinema
writer of note in the late 1940s.
The documentary has a surprising amount of footage from her
era. It's strange how the public-relations footage -- the premieres, the parties --
survived, yet the films that caused the hoopla have been allowed to disintegrate.
The hour artfully describes the arc of the career of an
actress who was mature only in her work, but unable to cope with any other basics of life.
But with age came the realization of her shortcomings, and her intelligence helped her to
reinvent herself. Upon Brooks' death, friends found composition books filled with
sentences from authors like Proust, whose structure and rhythm she taught herself to
TCM will debut the documentary May 5 at 8 p.m. (EST),
followed by three of Brooks' movies: classic German film Pandora's Box,
perhaps her best work; The Show-Off; and God's Gift to Women.