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American Venus

    by Leslie Mildiner


       

On preparing for the role of Sally Bowles in 'Cabaret', Liza Minnelli said:

"I went to my father (film director Vincente Minnelli), and asked him, what can you tell me about thirties glamour? Should I be emulating Marlene Dietrich or something? And he said no, I should study everything I can about Louise Brooks".

American Cable TV Show 'Inside The Actors Studio'

55-Minute BBC Arena documentary on Louise Brooks (1986)

Synopsis

Drama Play Script: 'American Venus' by Leslie MildinerLouise Brooks, was an American film actress of the 1920s, noted as an iconic symbol of the flapper, and for popularising the bobbed haircut.

‘American Venus’ is the title of one of Louise Brooks’ (mostly) lost films and the play portrays the actress as both an aggrieved sexagenarian who has been exiled to the 'entertainment wilderness' for decades, living out her final days in the bedroom of her apartment, and as her younger self at the hedonistic prime of her life who, at that point in time, was having an affair with Charlie Chaplin.

Spending most of her days in bed now with emphysema, Louise is cared for by Phyllis and her husband Frank. The couple receive little in the way of thanks from her and, bearing the brunt of her bad-tempered personality, they are often at their wits' end. Feeling cheated out of her former life and health, Louise’s verbal banter is evocative of the style prevalent in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and shows her as a cantankerous, but vulnerable, old woman.

The closest thing Louise has to a friend is Stan, her secretary, who makes regular visits during which they engage in bouts of verbal sparring. Although they are decades apart in age, and opposites in many respects, they are clearly in sync with each other. Stan tries to coax Louise back into the wider world, but she’s having none of it - that is until visiting Librarian, Tara, also becomes a regular visitor and reminds Louise of her younger self.

Through flash back scenes the older Louise is put into perspective by the younger Louise, who is still outspoken and carefree, but time hasn't yet dulled her optimism or her sense of fun. It’s clear then why the older Louise would look fondly at this time of her life, her trademark banter is present here, but in a more playful fashion.

In a separate set of flash back scenes, her early life as a young girl speaking to her mother offer a tantalising, rare glimpse of what her childhood was like, and how it kindled her rebellious streak.

Few actresses had the visceral, visual impact she had, nor did they have the unique combination of intellect and beauty that enabled Louise to transcend the self-made mess of her Hollywood years to become an icon; her posters and postcards the gateway experience to a face that still compels attention and repeated viewing. 


Duration

70-75 mins approx

Characters

(3m, 4f)

  Louise : 70s, Elderly Louise Brooks.
  Phyllis : 60's, Phyllis Trevane, Louise’s neighbour and unofficial home help.
  Frank  : 60's, Frank Trevane. Phyllis’ husband.
  Stan : 40's, Stan Embree. Louise's confidant, secretary and distractor. 
  Tara  : 20's, Tara Hulburt. Librarian.
  Chaplin : 30's, Charlie Chaplin.
  Young Louise : 18, Young Louise Brooks.

       

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