Last night, I reread Kenneth Tynan's article about Louise Brooks, "The Girl in the Black Helmet," in the August 29th issue of the New Yorker, a kind of greatest hits selection of old articles. This was a profile from 1979. I don't remember when I first read it, but I certainly know more about Brooks now than I did then. I remember being more interested in the fact that she wound up in upstate New York than anything else.
I have seen "Pandora's Box," the G.W. Pabst film (with Brooks' remarkable performance), ad I've read (and taught), Frank Wedekind's plays "The Earth Spirit" and "Pandora's Box." I certainly understood why Wedekind's plays weren't produced in the German Empire in the 1890s; plenty of sex, prostitution, a Jack the Ripper-like serial killer, and a lesbian countess. The film's screen play is not identical, but the broad strokes are the same.
The other reason that I feel like I know Brooks better, is that I've been fortunate enough to twice be a playwright-in-residence at the Inge Center for the Arts in Independence, Kansas. Eleven miles to the east of Independence is Cherryvale, Kansas, where Brooks was born in 1906. I find it difficult to wrap my mind around Brooks coming from such a small, rural place, that looks like it could be anywhere. I suppose Brooks was a thing unto herself.