Gilbert Speaks on the Silent Film: Why Be Good?

7 Dec


I’m beginning to enjoy my insomnia because of all the great films on Turner Classic Movies. On this past Monday night, TCM hosted several Vitaphone Shorts. The one that I enjoyed most was the 1929 silent comedy film from First National Pictures called Why Be Good? Could a young flapper remain virtuous while doing the Charleston? Will this film be added to “Granny’s Insomnia Theatre?” Find out after the jump.


I’m not sure why I foolishly assumed that it was my generation that paved the way for women’s liberation, but after watching Why Be Good? I realized that women were fighting for the same rights to party hard for a very long time. Why Be Good is a silent film and an enjoyable romantic comedy that was produced by John McCormick and directed by William A. Seiter. The film starred Colleen Moore as Pert Kelly.


Colleen Moore’s real life turned out to be even more interesting than the character Pert. Moore’s trademark bobbed haircut and pixie features reminded me of Betty Boop. Moore, who was a huge success in silent films, was married four times. Her having one blue eye and one brown eye did not interfere with her films with either silent or sound. Her film rival was Clara Bow.


Moore was no dummy, and in fact, was astute when it came to investing. She not only became a partner in the investment firm of Merrill Lynch, but wrote books about investing in the stock market. Moore’s passion not only included stocks and bonds, but doll houses and miniature furniture. One of her doll houses, which was 9 feet square and 12 feet high sits in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Like I said, Colleen Moore was much more interesting than her character Pert Kelly…now back to the review.


Pert Kelly is a hard working department store clerk who loves to go dancing every night. Pert is flirtatious and free spirited which worries her father, Pa Kelly (John St. Polis) that his daughter will gain a bad reputation. Ma Kelly played so touchingly by Bodil Rosing, understood that girls just want to have fun and, that Pert was really a good girl at heart. When Pert is at one of her late night parties and wins a dance contest, she meets Winthrop Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton). It is love at first sight, but Papa Winthrop (Edward Martindel) tries to convince his son that Pert’s moral fiber might be lacking.


True love wins out and Pert proves to everyone that she is indeed a good girl and a little sweetheart. The film had been lost for many decades although the Vitaphone soundtrack was still in existence.


The film was discovered in an Italian archive in the late 1990’s and restoration, which was funded by Warner Bros and the Vitaphone Project, was completed in 2014. You can purchase the DVD here. I recommend you do so. This film is a keeper and is now part of “Granny’s Insomnia Theatre”


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