Skip to main content
  1. Arts & Entertainment
  2. Celebrity

Downton Abbey and Louise Brooks

See also

With Downton Abbey about to begin its fourth season, it is worth noting some of the surprising connections between the popular PBS television show and Louise Brooks. The popular star, known for her distinctive bob hair style, was just beginning her career as a dancer and actress in the silent film era.

More Photos

Fans of the period drama, which is set in the first decades of the 20th century, may have noticed a scene where one of the downstairs help can be seen reading a vintage issue of Photoplay, the leading movie magazine of the time. Mabel Normand, one of the silent era's leading female stars, is on the cover.

The show's connection with the silent film era doesn't end there. The series also has some rather interesting ties to Louise Brooks.

In 2011, a handful of English writers were asked by the Guardian newspaper which books had most impressed them during the course of the year. The answer given by actor, novelist, screenwriter, director, Oscar winner and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes caused a bit of a stir, as the book he mentioned was first published in 1989. Fellowes' answer read:

"I suspect the book that has haunted me the most this year was the life of that queen of the silent screen, Louise Brooks: A Biography (University of Minnesota £17), by Barry Paris. I have seldom read so lyrical a tale of self-destruction. When she was a girl, my mother used to be mistaken for Louise Brooks and so I have always felt a sort of investment in her, but I was unprepared for this heartbreaking tale of what-might-have-been."

Fellowes' eloquent appreciation of Paris' acclaimed biography echoes the many superb reviews the book received when it was first published. UK novelist Angela Carter praised it, as did the Times Literary Supplement. The latter noted, "Louise Brooks seems to have had such a rare intelligence and humor that this is not a tale of tragedy but a study in fierce originality."

Might Fellowes be aware that Shirley MacLaine, one of the stars of Downton Abbey, is also a big fan of Louise Brooks? Over the years, MacLaine has said as much in interviews, all the while expressing interest in someday playing Brooks on screen.

Additionally, one of the other stars of Downton Abbey, Elizabeth McGovern, has a similar interest in the bobbed Brooks. After serving as the reader for the audio version of Laura Moriarty's 2012 novel, The Chaperone, McGovern snapped up the movie rights to the bestselling book, which tells a story centered around Brooks' time as an aspiring dancer with the Denishawn Dance company.

The Chaperone is in development with Fox Searchlight, with Fellowes set to pen the script, McGovern set to play the title character, and McGovern's husband, Simon Curtis, set to direct. Shirley MacLaine would be a great choice to play Louise Brooks' mother, a key character in the early pages of The Chaperone.

Thomas Gladysz is an entertainment writer and early film buff, and the Director of the Louise Brooks Society, an online archive and international fan club devoted to the silent film star. Gladysz has contributed to books on the actress, organized exhibits, appeared on television and radio, and introduced Brooks' films around the world. In 2010, he edited and wrote the introduction to the “Louise Brooks Edition” of Margarete Bohme’s The Diary of a Lost Girl.

Advertisement

Arts & Entertainment

  • Brad Pitt
    Find out how a $10 donation could win you a date with Brad Pitt
    Video
    Today's Buzz
  • Johnny Cash
    Famous men and their cats prove you don't have to look tough to look good
    Camera
    Celebrity Buzz
  • Valerie Harper
    Valerie Harper clarifies her 'cancer-free' statement with some additional information
    Headlines
  • Kate Middleton
    Kate Middleton's beautiful DVF dress sells out in just minutes
    Camera
    Pop Culture
  • Robin
    As Batman ends the search for Damian's body, we wonder who the next Robin will be
    Camera
    Comics Buzz
  • Vampire Diaries
    See the hottest predictions for the upcoming season of 'The Vampire Diaries'
    Video
    TV Buzz

Related Videos:

  • Man with the last name 'Cocaine' arrested on drug charges
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518200814" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=518200814&autoStart=true"></div>
  • New open access journal in archaeological science (Maney Publishing)
    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/CWCVaKdUjCw?VQ=HD720&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>
  • <div class="video-info" data-id="518201026" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=518201026&autoStart=true"></div>

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about Examiner.com and apply today!