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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

OUR MODERN MAIDENS (1929)

After a score of films in three years, featured player Joan Crawford broke out as M-G-M’s personification of ‘flaming youth’ in a trio of pics: OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS/’28; OUR MODERN MAIDENS/’29 and OUR BLUSHING BRIDES/’30. Not sequels, though aimed at the same audience, the first & last chart the chasm between silents & The Talkies; from carefree pre-Crash glitz to a working gal Depression ethos. High-gloss formulaic stuff, but loaded with interest; more than can be said for this middle number. Out barely a month before the stock market crash, it works too hard at being peppy, charting a romantic quadrangle that plays out when Crawford & fiancé Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. find their flirtations with Rod La Rocque & Anita Page turning serious. Workhorse director Jack Conway is out of his meat-and-potatoes element here, but still gets the job done, letting lenser Oliver Marsh play around with a zoom lens (rare at the time) and slowing down to let the relationship between Fairbanks & Page deepen without falling back on too many title cards. (Back in real life, it was Fairbanks & Crawford who married.) Decent enough, with Crawford’s dance routine much helped by silent shooting speed (22 fps shown at sound speed’s 24?), and with lots of sound effects & music tacked on. (A new Nacio Brown tune, ‘Should I,’ gets plugged to death.) Young Fairbanks comes off best, especially in a fun party piece that has him imitating the silent acting styles of John Barrymore, John Gilbert &, of course, his pop, Doug Senior, as Robin Hood. Alas, nothing else in here is nearly as memorable.

DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, DAUGHTERS and BRIDES hold far more interest.

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