As mentioned previously, the things we know about Louise Brooks are simplified: 1. she was hot and had a lot of sex, 2. she was a volatile, angry bitch who destroyed her own chances at success.
One can see why this is thought. Her famous film roles in Pandora’s Box or Diary of a Lost Girl, or the vampy Hollywood roles like those in Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em, The Show Off, A Girl in Every Port, The Canary Murder Case, and even God’s Gift to Women capitalize on her status as sex symbol, while the rest is formed by gossip. And she was notorious for her rudeness, stating, for instance: “Fans? I detest them!” she said. “All they want to do is come up and rob you.”
Reading Barry Paris’ biography of Brooks, however, you find more nuance in her hatred of her fans, which only seems to crop up during her revival post-1950s. Articles written about her seem to have been reductive sex gossip which enraged her (wouldn’t that enrage you?) Two more quotations, written by Brooks caught my attention:
I have turned down homages in London, Toronto, California, New York… this year Scotland. Not because I think I am grand. I just don’t like getting ruffed up by a lot of fools who pay my expenses for the privilege of abusing me.
I find your opening sentence intriguing: “For millions of men who love cinema, you are Loulou.” With one exception [Lotte Eisner], as far as I know I have never had a single admirer of my films among women. And to be a film star of enduring quality, an actress must not be only admired but imitated by women fans.
Fan were exploiting and abusing her, reducing her to nothing but sex and objectifying her, with, it seems (from Paris’ descriptions at least) more interest in her 20-year old dancer’s body, 20-year old nudity, and 20-year old beauty. These fans were seemingly all men, until later in the 1960s when women began to copy her style (note: according to Paris it is men who have interest in her role as a star and in her films, and it is women who have interest in copying her hair; it is men who are vocal about their consumption of Lulu, it is women who are relegated to the pages of uncinematic, unacademic style magazines). This feels contradictory — there are references to her status as queer icon in her early days, encouraged by her friendships with lesbians, her androgyny, her brief affairs with women, and the queer content of Pandora’s Box, and this suggests a fanbase of gay women. But her popular revival from the 1950s to her death was taken up fully by men, who valued above all else her youthful eroticism.
A final quotation from Brooks:
It’s simply that I make whoring as ugly as it is, and this is a man’s world and they’re not going to have it…. Men are the publishers, and anything that kills their sexual pleasure is not going to be allowed…. It’s all right in [Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man] to make up men who beat women and kick them around and give them syphilis and clap and babies. That is fine because that makes the man a hero in this kind of world’s eyes…. I detest what they do to women. And women are forced into that kind of life, and they are not going to let me tell it…. That’s why they hate [Pandora’s Box], because it shows this rich man, this rich man like Hearst, whose whole life is to build power, to get rich enough and powerful enough to live a life of sex with women. That’s every man’s ambition. I don’t care who they are or how they hide it or whether they are able to achieve it or not, and I write against that from beginning to end.
If these are your fans, then it seems perfectly reasonable that you’d hate them.