Screen actresses burnt fiercest in the imagination during the silent era—take the starchy cuteness of Mary Pickford (the first ‘America’s sweetheart’), or the effervescent Clara Bow (the first ‘It girl’). They’re now precious relics preserved in ancient movie memory. Not Louise Brooks (1906-85). Caress her sleekly bob-cut hair, look into those huge dark eyes as they fix you in an accusatory stare, take in those tightly-pursed lips that readily extend into a smile under lowered brows, and you know why. Austrian auteur Georg Wilhelm Pabst, who invited her to Berlin to make a film, made one of the most inspiring casts in movie history. The resultant Pandora’s Box (1929), a cult classic now, stands because of Brooks’s ownership of the narrative. Her Lulu is one of cinema’s great, complex ‘bad girls’, a career mistress, destroyer of men, creator of her own tragedy. Unlike others, she imbues Lulu with a mysterious, free-spirited vulnerability and an utterly modern range of expressions, voluptuously inhabiting that grey mix of gay seduction and earnestness. Like Lulu, the haughty Brooks was a master of self-destruction and went into obscurity. Rediscovered 20 years later, hailed as a great beauty, referenced by Godard in Vivre Sa Vie, Brooks in later years was an eager sharer in her own, grand mystique.