Pin-Up of the Day: Louise Brooks

This is what happens when you try to photograph Louise Brooks off your TV set. If you’re not George Hurrell it’s just not going to work. Let’s see what I can leech off the internet…

Plenty of gorgeous photographs, including some nice early nudes if you want to go Google ’em, but not much of her in her superhero costume. She’s really a daredevil girl who leaps off a mile-high ladder into a tub of water, soaking a happy Victor McLaglen (he’s always happy), but with the cape she really ought to be a costumed vigilante, perhaps going by the name of Sexygirl, fighting the forces of evil by shagging them into submission, which was pretty much Brooks’ mission in life at this time anyway.

She’s a prototypical Hawksian woman — self-driven, smart and sassy, but the plot has her down as a gold-digging bitch. Wisely, Hawks, who penned the storyline, avoids giving her any kind of downfall: she simply pockets McLaglen’s life savings, then drops out of the film altogether, presumably to fleece another cheerful sucker in another film. McLaglen returns to the meaty embrace of Robert Armstrong, just as happy as before, neither sadder nor wiser.

It amazes me little has been done to examine this vein of homoeroticism in Hawks, actually… but at the same time I’m totally NOT amazed. Somehow the films both welcome this reading — Hawks spoke openly of “a love story between two men” — and render it irrelevant, by foregrounding it and shrugging “So what?”

While the pummeling, two-fisted punch-ups serve as a substitute for more intimate man-on-man action, somehow there’s no real frisson of naughtiness in it. By contrast, in an Italian western like Bava’s ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK, the fist-fights are more or less explicit acts of love between men who can’t express their feelings any other way, and in Cottafavi’s LEGIONS OF CLEOPATRA, poor Cleo (Linda Cristal) is reduced to the status of beard, watching irrelevantly (or not even present) as male protagonists wallop seven shades of shit out of each other to demonstrate how very masculine they are… Truly, Italian popular cinema of this time just reeks of repressed passion, which is fascinating considering the kind of culture it’s emerging from.

Oh, alright then:

UK residents can check out Brooks’ work here:

Diary of a Lost Girl [1929] [DVD] [2007]

20 Responses to “Pin-Up of the Day: Louise Brooks”

  1. VAv-VA-VOOOOM! Louise always aims to please.

    As for Hawksian homoeroticism, who can forget Dewey Martin in a Tea Towel in Land of the Pharoahs? I certainly can’t. In fact, Dewey Martin in just about everything.

    And don’t get me started on Rickey Nelson in Rio Bravo !

  2. Yikes. Thanks David C., I needed that. I’ve been wanting to acquire Criterion’s Pandora’s Box for some time now, just have to wait until the right price comes along. This’ll do in the meanwhile. Now that, my friend, is a pin-up.

  3. Pandora’s Box is also a very important film for admirers of the female back.

    8 1/2 really seems to succeed in pointing a camera at the inside of a man’s head. There really is such a space, where attractive characters get stored away for later use… or is that just me?
    I think my mum was keen on Ricky Neslon. So was Hawks: “Nice kid. Can’t act. Knows it.”

  4. Thanks for the quote from Hawks re. Ricky. You got both a grin and a laugh outta me. Nelson did seem pretty grounded.

  5. Oh, and an additional nod for Pandora’s Back.

  6. There’s a great shot of Monica Vitti’s back in Modesty Blaise.

  7. And speaking of homoeroticism, Fox has recently released Moontide, with Jean Gabin (as Bobo), Thomas Mitchell (as Tiny) and Claude Rains (as Nutsy). Mitchell’s character is the heavy, sees his bond with Bobo slipping away as the latter falls in love with Ida Lupino’s Anna. But there’s a jaw-dropping scene in the film where Tiny is sadistically snapping a nude Nutsy with a towel, pretty strong stuff for 1942. Again, a nude Claude Rains being snapped with a towel. Of course he’s only seen from the waist up, but he’s trying to take a shower for God’s sake.

  8. Have been reading about this one (originally conceived for Frtiz Lang, who would have relished the towel scene — many many takes would be required before he was “satisfied”) and am very keen to see it.

    And maybe I will, soon…

  9. Archie Mayo supposedly took over due to tension between Gabin and Lang thanks to Dietrich. Yes, imagine the acrimony between Rains and Lang had he stayed on. Salvador Dali did some prelims for the film which show up near the beginning, and one image, where a woman disappears while her dress remains, has Dali’s name all over it. This same dress shows up toward the end of the film in a very bizarre context. It was very strange seeing this film after having seen over half a dozen of Gabin’s French films, but it’s a wonderful oddity.

  10. Lang complained that Dietrich would telephone from his bed, after sex with him, and make an appointment with another lover, right in front of him! Not necessarily true, coming from Lang, but if it IS, I guess the other lover was likely Gabin.

    This movie sounds so strange and interesting!

  11. There’s an extra, a “special feature” on the DVD, entitled Turning of the Tide: The Ill-Starred Making of Moontide. Among other things they bring up the ad campaign launched by Zanuck and Fox where they try to promote Gabin to the American public. It’s pretty ridiculous, and pretty hilarious, and I don’t blame Gabin one bit for returning to Europe after his foray as a member of the Hollywood Star System.

  12. Marlene used to sneak off to Palm Springs with Gabin for their trysts. I can TOTALLY see her calling up a lover from another lover’s bed.

    Meanwhile, speaking of iconography, William Claxton has died.

  13. Another recent obituary I haven’t had time to mention: Peter Copley. best known as the chief officer in Losey’s King and Country, and can also be seen in Victim.

  14. Wonderful pictures you have put together

  15. She was a very sexy and beautifull woman!…

  16. Keith Dinsen Says:

    Where has this woman been all my life. I wish that there were alot more like her today, or I wish I lived in another era

  17. Bob Deveau Says:

    I thought I’d seen every nude of Louise Brooks, but this one I had never seen! Where on Earth did you find it?

  18. I think I swiped it from a dedicated Louise Brooks website… I’d never seen it before either.

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