Wichita’s silent movie star is subject of upcoming documentary

Louise Brooks is known as the silent-movie actress who popularized the bob haircut and the Charleston.

She has been called one of the 20th century’s most beautiful women.

And Brooks – a woman with Wichita ties – is about to have another documentary made about her.

This past week, two filmmakers from New York were in Kansas – specifically Wichita, Independence and Cherryvale – doing interviews for “Documentary of a Lost Girl.”

The two, Charlotte Siller and Shawn Michael Gray, say on their Facebook page that the documentary is “about the brilliant mind and wild life of Louise Brooks.”

Siller said last week that she was inspired to do the documentary after reading Brooks’ book, “Lulu in Hollywood,” a collection of eight essays on topics ranging from her growing up in Kansas to her life as a Ziegfeld Follies dancer to her often-times sexually charged friendships.

Brooks, who died in Rochester, N.Y., in 1985 at age 78, appeared in 25 films between 1925 and 1938.

“I read her book, and she was someone I had known about,” Siller said. “She was very bright and had an interesting perspective for somebody of her era.”

Brooks was known for her independent spirit, raucous escapades and soulful eyes.

“This isn’t a cushy-fan documentary,” Siller said. “We are not holding anything back. We are showing how she could be a little difficult at times.

“It is a no-holds-barred documentary.”

For a time, Brooks was best known for her partying rather than her acting. She was reported to have had flings with Charlie Chaplin, William S. Paley – the founder of CBS – and even Greta Garbo.

Even today, Brooks has a devout following that includes the Louise Brooks Society, which promotes her life as a star and dancer. Her most famous role was as Lulu in the 1929 German-produced movie, “Pandora’s Box.”

Brooks was born in 1906 in Cherryvale and moved to Wichita with her family when she was 13. The Brooks’ 14-room home, at 924 N. Topeka, has since been demolished.

She started her stage career at Horace Mann intermediate school and danced at the Miller Theater in downtown Wichita. She later returned to Wichita for a short time to run a dance studio.

In a 1978 New Yorker profile by Kenneth Tynan, Brooks would say of Wichita: “The citizens of Wichita either resented me for having been a success or despised me for being a failure. And I wasn’t exactly enchanted with them.”

Siller said she hopes to have the documentary finished by November.

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

For more information on the documentary, contact Siller at firstavefilms@gmail.com.