Born in Kansas, he was known in her youth for her dancing ability prior to landing several roles in Follies and other theater acts under Flo Ziegfeld. She signed a contract with Paramount Studios in 1925 (over MGM) against the wishes of friend William Wanger, whom feared that the perception would be he curried favor with her signing. By 1928, she was disenchanted with Paramount and quit when the studio wouldn't give her a raise.
She subsequently moved to Germany, joined up with director GW Pabst, and starrred in her career making role as Lulu in Pandora's Box. She'd follow it up with Diary of a Lost Girl the next year but both films would be flops at the box office thanks to the transition and immediate rise of the talkies in theaters. Brooks made some poor career decisions around this time, such as refusing to dub lines when Paramount flick The Canary Murder Case (1929) was converted into a talkie, and, worse, turning down the female lead in The Public Enemy (1931). That proved the death knell to her movie career, although she struggled on in a few cheap B Movies. Her last film, the Poverty Row western Overland Stage Raiders, had her looking unrecognizeable◊ in long hair, appearing opposite an obscure, unknown cowboy actor named John Wayne.
Brooks spent the rest of her life mostly reading, painting, and authoring several autobiographies including Lulu In Hollywood, still considered one of the best movie memoirs ever written.
The biography Brooks by Barry Paris is a must-read for anybody wanting to learn more about her.
- The American Venus (1926)
- Its The Old Army Game (1926)
- Just Another Blonde (1926)
- Rolled Stockings (1927)
- Beggars Of Life (1928)
- Pandora's Box (1929)
- The Canary Murder Case (1929)
- Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
- Miss Europe (1930)
- It Pays To Advertise (1931)
- Empty Saddles (1936)
- Overland Stage Raiders (1938)
Tropes associated with her work:
- '20s Bob Haircut: Is currently the page image for good reason.
- Deadpan Snarker: Could be this at times. Also served as a Silent Snarker at times in her films.
- The Flapper: One of the quintessential models of the concept in the 1920s.
- Method Acting: A rare and very notable inversion. Brooks has said she'd never even read a script and had a very laidback attitude towards acting and directors on set.
- Money, Dear Boy: Why she came back to Hollywood in the mid 1930's despite openly despising the place.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Was known for her pale skin and jet-black hair, the latter which stood out due to her hairstyle.
- Silent Movie: Most of her work is categorized as this due to the era she worked in.
- The Vamp: Utilized this role most famously in Pandora's Box.
- What Could Have Been: Turned down the lead role in The Public Enemy to take a trip to New York to see George Marshall, owner of the Washington NFL franchise.