Ever since the final debate of the 2016 presidential race, feminists across America have been proudly proclaiming themselves Nasty Women. So it seems like an auspicious time to reexamine the legacy of one of the most notorious nasty women of the silent screen era: actress Louise Brooks, whose short black bobbed hair inspired a generation of flappers and whose outré lifestyle and controversial characterizations generated both outrage and admiration among moviegoers.
In her career-defining role as Lulu in G. W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box, Brooks became an instantly recognizable cultural icon, said to have been used by Liza Minelli as her model for the character Sally Bowles in Cabaret. But how many of us today have actually seen Brooks’ films? That deficit can be amended on Sunday, March 5, however, when the Rosendale Theatre’s monthly Sunday Silents series dusts off her second collaboration with Pabst: The Diary of a Lost Girl (1929).
In the film, Brooks plays Thymian, a beautiful teenager who becomes pregnant after a sexual attack by her father’s employee. Refusing to marry him, she is sent to a girls’ reformatory, eventually escapes but ends up working in a brothel – until her father dies and she inherits a fortune. Part melodrama, part social commentary, The Diary of a Lost Girl was heavily edited upon release on account of its “shocking” story and characters; versions of varying length exist today because of the cuts.
As is usual with silent film screenings at the Rosendale, live piano accompaniment will be improvised by Marta Waterman. The show begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 5. Tickets cost $7 general admission, $5 for members. The handicapped-accessible Rosendale Theatre is located at 408 Main Street (Route 213) in Rosendale, and has ample parking in the rear. For more info, call (845) 658-8989 or visit www.rosendaletheatre.org.