vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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When legends intersect

The roster of people who acted (not necessarily starred) in films with Carole Lombard includes a number of names you wouldn't normally associate with her. In "It Pays To Advertise," one of them worked with Lombard before either became legendary figures; the difference was that at the time, the movies that would make Carole a legend had yet to be made, while this person's legendary output had already been filmed...and she was less than two years older than Lombard.

We're referring to Louise Brooks, who had a small part in the 1931 Lombard vehicle "It Pays To Advertise." Only two years before, with films such as "Pandora's Box" and "Diary Of A Lost Girl," both made in Germany, Brooks was the darling of that era's equivalent of the art house crowd -- though at the time, neither film made much of an impression among the general American audience. In fact, if you magically transported yourself back to 1929, you would find that the page-boy hairstyle now so associated with Brooks would then have been associated with Colleen Moore (right), a far bigger star in the U.S. (and one whose work, particularly in comedic "flapper" roles, deserves more attention today).

Like many actresses, Brooks began her career as a dancer, leaving her native Kansas in the mid-twenties to work with George White's Scandals, then the Ziegfeld Follies. Movies beckoned, and she gained recognition for roles in the likes of "It's The Old Army Game" (with W.C. Fields, 1926), "The City Gone Wild" (1927) and "A Girl In Every Port" (1928), all at Paramount. But her best and most famous roles came abroad, in "Pandora's Box" and "Diary Of A Lost Girl."

Brooks was always diffident about Hollywood, and it was this attitude that proved to be her undoing. Before making the two German films, she appeared in "The Canary Murder Case," starring future Lombard husband William Powell as Philo Vance. Brooks plays Margaret Odell, the "canary" in question, a blackmailing nightclub singer whose scheming eventually leads to her murder. (Jean Arthur has a supporting role.)

"The Canary Murder Case" was originally shot as a silent, at a time when movies were making a rapid rush to sound. Paramount decided to convert it into a talkie, but Brooks refused their request to return to Los Angeles for dubbing (her character was voiced by Margaret Livingston). Such an attitude effectively sabotaged Brooks' American career. "It Pays To Advertise" marked her return to the U.S. screen, after a French film, "Prix de Beaute," in 1930; she got the part at the behest of its director, Frank Tuttle.

Brooks is seventh-billed in the film, playing a chorus girl named Thelma Temple. Her character doesn't have much screen time, and she and Lombard don't appear in any scenes together (this is among Carole's most obscure features). In fact, since Brooks' scene is done near a small airport -- the only time we see her in the film -- it's entirely possible she and Lombard never met.

In the spring of 1931, Paramount released Brooks from her contract as part of a roster whittling; Jean Arthur received similar treatment. Brooks reportedly rejected an offer for a supporting role in James Cagney's 1931 film "The Public Enemy." She would act in only eight more films before retiring from the screen in 1938 -- and in three of them, she was either uncredited or had her scenes deleted.

After ending her acting career, she opened a dance studio, first in Beverly Hills, then in Wichita, Kansas. She later moved to New York, working as a sales clerk at Saks Fifth Avenue, and wound up upstate in Rochester. There, she settled down to a life of reading and painting, earning renown as a talented writer and essayist on films...though she apparently had little, if anything, to say about either Lombard or "It Pays To Advertise."
Tags: colleen moore, it pays to advertise, jean arthur, louise brooks, william powell

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