Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Why Be Good? (1929) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

One of my favorite memories from last year's TCM Classic Film Festival was an early morning screening of Colleen Moore in the silent film WHY BE GOOD? (1929).

I enjoyed WHY BE GOOD? with an audience which included over a dozen of my fellow classic film bloggers. With the 2016 festival coming later this month, it was a wonderful time to revisit this very enjoyable film thanks to the Warner Archive.

Moore plays Pert Kelly, a department store clerk who spends her evenings as a red hot jazz baby, out on the town dancing with her dates. But while Pert plays quite the vamp at times, in truth she's a "good" girl waiting for the right man.

One night Pert meets Winthrop Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton), who drives her home when her date passes out. Pert and Winthrop are wildly attracted to each other and make a date for the next night.

Imagine Pert's horror when the next morning she's called into the store personnel office to be reprimanded for being tardy to work after her late night out...and the new personnel manager is none other than Winthrop Peabody, son of the store owner!

After an awkward time of it, Pert and Winthrop smooth things over, but Winthrop's father (Edward Martindel) worries that Pert might just be on the make for a rich husband. Winthrop himself, egged on by his father, questions whether Pert is virtuous.

When Winthrop tries to take advantage of her, the outraged Pert points out that if she'd stayed home and "darned socks" she would never have attracted his attention, and she calls him on his hypocrisy for questioning whether a girl he wants to be with can also be "good."

This is quite a fun film, with the vivacious Moore on screen most of the movie. (Moore, incidentally, was a key mentor in the life of Loretta Young and even gave the former Gretchen Young her new name, Loretta.) Moore is particularly effective in the quieter moments when the "real" Pert hiding under the party girl exterior reveals herself.

I'm always slightly disconcerted when I see Hamilton as a leading man, associating him so strongly with playing Commissioner Gordon in BATMAN decades later. The cast also includes Bodil Rosing and John Sainpolis as Pert's parents. Look for Andy Devine, Jean Harlow, Grady Sutton, and Phil Harris in bit parts.

The movie also has some marvelous set design, particularly the Peabodys' Art Deco apartment and the uniquely designed night spot called The Boiler.

It's interesting to note that at one point, when Pert is feeling down, she says she's going to visit her sister. That scene is never shown, but I've found it on a still and lobby card (seen here).

When I had the chance to see Clara Bow in GET YOUR MAN (1927) earlier this year, I took the opportunity in large part because of how much I'd enjoyed WHY BE GOOD? Both silent films expanded my viewing horizons considerably in recent months, and I hope others will find WHY BE GOOD? as much fun as I did.

WHY BE GOOD? was directed by William A. Seiter and filmed by Sidney Hickox. It runs 84 minutes.

The print, which includes a synchronized soundtrack with music and sound effects, is excellent. There are no extras.

For more background on the film, including the restoration, please visit a guest post by Jonas Nordin at Out of the Past.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


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