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Saturday, 22 March 2008

Our Modern Maidens (1929)

Our Dancing Daughters proved a hit, unsurprisingly given its quality, so a year later many of the same folks are back for a film unrelated but for the similar cast, the similar title and the similar plot. Joan Crawford is back, of course, playing a young lady called Billie Brown who gets engaged at the beginning of the film to Gil Jordan, up and coming diplomat played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. It can't have been much of an act, because Crawford and Fairbanks were married in a publicity campaign for the movie. Anita Page and Edward Nugent are back too and they're joined by Fairbanks, Rod La Rocque and Josephine Dunn.

Needless to say Crawford's character is the bright and breezy one. Billie is the daughter of the delightfully named B Bickering Brown, prominent something magnate and she's a headstrong soul who plays up to Glenn Abbott, noted diplomat, in order to land a plum position for her fiancee Gil. In the meantime Anita Page's character falls hard for him and so the race is on to see if she can steal him away. The tragedy at the end is different, so there are variations here but they don't add up to much, except a different 'modern' ending.

Crawford gets the wild dance scenes again because that's how she was being pushed at the time, especially after Our Dancing Daughters. She even gets a bizarre ballet number early on in a very memorable dress. Fairbanks gets to strut his stuff, doing impersonations of John Barrymore, John Gilbert and his own father. Bizarrely the best one is the Barrymore impression! I wonder if he was playing safe when playing his father on purpose.

There's a heavy overuse of soft focus here and focus is something very needed in this film, not just visually but in the storyline too. It worked in Our Dancing Daughters because it was new and done very well indeed. This is what can only be termed a ripoff, made a single year later with a storyline that's tweaked only slightly and many of the same people play the same characters, merely with different names. It's very clearly a lesser rerun of the same material, which is a little unfair on some of the people involved. Both Fairbanks and especially Rod La Rocque give performances worthy of a much better film.

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