Lulu in Rochester: Self-Portrait of an Anti-Star

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In 1928 — at the age of 22 — Louise Brooks gave one of the best performances in the silent cinema as Lulu, an amoral woman of pleasure whose character had fascinated German artists since the 1890s. Director G.W. Pabst had searched for his star all over Europe, and he was ready to sign Marlene Dietrich when he heard that Louise Brooks, a refugee from Cherryvale, Kansas, a former Ziegfield girl and rising Paramount star, was willing to take the role. As Brooks recalls, contemporary critics complained that her performance was an utter blank: “Louise Brooks cannot act. She does not suffer. She does nothing.” But, this was precisely the point.

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