Louise Brooks in "Beggars Of Life" (1928)

There’s a reason the name Louise Brooks elicits sighs every time it’s mentioned at the Cinefamily. Her ferocious charisma and otherworldly beauty cemented her status as an icon of 1920s silent cinema well before she retired too early from the silver screen, at the age of 32. As an actress capable of endless nuance and versatility, Brooks deeply understood the impact both her inner and outer beauty could bring to the screen — and in Beggars of Life, William Wellman’s early Depression-era portrait of transient life, she he gave one of her absolute strongest performances during her brief stint within the Hollywood system. Brooks plays Nancy, who must go on the run with her friend Jim after killing her sleazy stepfather in self-defense — and, after disguising herself as a boy, engages in train-hopping, hobo-fighting and car-stealing, all while on the lam. A daring story with an outstanding supporting cast, Beggars of Life echoes the dark atmospherics of Brooks’ other films, but it stands out for its markedly American narrative. A rare, perfect blend of melodrama and naturalism.
Dir. William Wellman, 1928, 35mm, 100 min. (Archival 35mm print courtesy of the George Eastman House. Preservation funded by The Film Foundation.)

Watch Cinefamily’s original trailer for “Beggars of Life”!