Stardom and Evelyn Brent


 Love ‘em and leave ‘em was filmed at the Paramount studio in Astoria, Long Island. Two days before shooting began in September 1926 I was in the wardrobe department talking to its head, Herman Smith. He was a big, kind man trying to look fierce while he gave me hell for having had my shopgirl costume custom-made at Milgrim’s when in came Evelyn Brent who had just arrived in New York from Hollywood. For a shocking half hour I sat amazed watching Herman and her assemble a complete wardrobe for the film in which she played the lead, and my sister. From a pipe stand of worn size 12’s they selected her clothes; and from the shoe shelves they selected my castoff slippers (we wore the same size 4). All this time her manner was warm and friendly, but I found later that she was like a baked Alaska – very cold inside.

Evelyn was entering the picture with a big studio build-up and trumpets of enthusiasm usually reserved for top stars. And I had never hears of her. A girl in publicity told me that Evelyn had been in pictures for ten years, most recently in a series of girl crook pictures at that little studio, FBO. This was interesting because FBO head, Ben Schulberg, had also recently become head of Paramount’s West Coast studio on the strenght of his having its newest star, Clara Bow under personal contract. And Schulberg’s assistant was Bernie Fineman, husband of Evelyn Brent.

Our director, Frank Tuttle, was a master of easy, perfectly timed comedy which demanded that kind of acting rather than the wildly energetic style popular in Hollywood. An intelligent man, he never interfered with two classes of authors – great actors and non-actors. In the first class was Osgood Perkins who needed no direction. In the second class was I who, had he directed me to be funny, would have become an immobilized personality. Lawrence Gray belonged in the ham class. He required gobbets of comic appreciation to keep him functioning. Evelyn was indeed in a class by herself. After all these years the possibility of stardom put her in a emotional state of anxiety, the result of which being that she acted with an intensity better suited to Mata Hari before the firing squad than a shop-girl in a comedy. And Tuttle had succeeded in somewhat relaxing and softening her performance when Schulberg wired from the coast that he had seen the rushes and he wanted Evelyn photographed to look much younger (she was 28 and I was 19). And more beautiful. As a consequence all her carefully nurtured ease and confidence withered away during the rest of filming while the make-up man and our camera man, George Webber, worked on the lines under her eyes and around her mouth. I did not see Love ‘em and leave ‘em when it was released, however the studio said Evelyn was a fine actress and looked beautiful.

The next time I saw Evelyn was in Hollywood in 1928 after she had made a great hit in Underworld. She had divorced Bernie Fineman and married Harry Edwards, a low-rate actor, director and con man. When I visited her at her expensive new house in Brentwood I hoped to find a happy and secure Evelyn – and she did appear to be living in the Hollywood dream world of unending grandeur. But behind it I saw the same old tight little smile and heard the same old dry laughter.

In 1937 I went on a Paramount set to see the director, Robert Florey (who specialised in giving jobs to destitute and sufficiently grateful actresses) about a bit part in his film, King of gamblers. Evelyn was sitting on the set, wearing a flowered dressing gown, waiting to play a short scene in the picture. After saying hello no further words were spoken between us. There was nothing to say. Paramount had dropped her contract at the end of 1929. An unsuccessfully year at RKO ended with the loss of her Brentwood house and the exit of Harry Edwards after which she had returned to free-lancing, Westerns, and finally bit parts.

When Evelyn’ scene was finished we went to the still picture gallery where we were photographed standing on either side of Bob Florey. It took no imagination to guess the caption that would appear under the photograph: “Former Paramount stars, Evelyn Brent and Louise Brooks, have returned to the studio to play bit parts in Robert Florey’s latest production, King of gamblers”

Louise Brooks, Stardom and Evelyn Brent, “Toronto Film Society”, January 13, 1975

Index ] Pagina superiore ] Louise Brooks, Actors and the Pabst spirit ] [ Louise Brooks, Stardom and Evelyn Brent ] Louise Brooks, Funny screen experiences - No no Nanette ] Louise Brooks, Ein wenig Louise Brooks ] Louise Brooks,Marlene ] Louise Brooks, Letter to Andrew Sarris - Checklist nr. 27 ] Louise Brooks, ZaSu Pitts ] Louise Brooks, The white hell of Pitz Palu ] Louise Brooks, Mr. Pabst ] Louise Brooks, Why I will never write my memoirs ] Louise Brooks, Buster Keaton ] scrittifundamentals.pdf ] Louise Brooks, Joan Crawford ] Louise Brooks, Charlie Chaplin remembered ]