Moderne Maidens


OUR MODERN MAIDENS is the follow-up to OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS — it also stars Joan Crawford and Anita Page, just like its predecessor, and deals with the emotional travails of poor little rich girl jazz baby flappers — the problematic working class character has been eliminated so we can all relax and enjoy the minor emotional problems of the fabulously well-to-do with a clean conscience.

Like its predecessor, this is a soundie — recorded music and a few sound effects including applause, laughter and even the odd bit of offscreen dialogue. It’s a strange audio world where radios can talk but human beings have to use intertitles.

Joan is at her sexiest — still vaguely terrifying but her rangy physique, carnivorous grin, mad staring eyes and unfettered bosom do exert an allure. Anita of course is full of gooey, doughy, woman-behind-the-radiator perkiness, as ever.

The party! Cedric Gibbons gets a bigger budget to make his Grauman’s theater/cathedral mash-ups bigger and better — a zoom lens, of all the cockamamie things, has been procured from somewhere, to create a weird shrinking box effect around Joan and Doug Fairbanks Jnr. Either they borrowed the Paramount lens, or MGM got the use of Joseph Walker’s experimental zoom, which I have never otherwise seen used, though it’s been written about.

And then Doug Jnr does some impressions — really good ones. Alright, John Barrymore’s Mr Hyde is a fairly standard item in the caricaturist’s repertoire of the period, and I daresay it’s easy if you happen to have the right facial muscles to do it at all, but John Gilbert is someone I’ve never seen mimicked, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me that he was colourful enough to caricature. Fairbanks nails him. And then of course he does his dad…

OUR MODERN MAIDENS was followed by OUR BLUSHING BRIDES — will definitely be checking that one out. It’s 1930 so I presume it’s a full talkie — one of Joan’s earliest. Perhaps, at last, Cedric will get to make a church look like an art deco palace rather than the other way around.

8 Responses to “Moderne Maidens”

  1. La Faustin Says:

    1. I would have said the Barrymore Hyde was George Arliss. What a frightening face he had.

    2. Was Joan doing an apache dance with HERSELF?

  2. I think maybe the JB Hyde was an attempt to morph his face into brother Lionel’s, only he can’t make it because his skull gets in the way. And yes, George Arliss is terrifying, like a zombie pope.

    Joan’s dancing always tends towards the enthusiastic/violent. I call it Mad Auntie Dancing and I guess it was a safe outlet for her homicidal impulses. She only went spare with the coat hangers when deprived of that means of expression.

  3. David Boxwell Says:

    “Rod La Rocque” sounds like a nom du porn, avant la lettre. Still too much lipstick on the leading men as late as 1929.

  4. I assumed he would be the bulging he-man type, just from his name, but he’s quite a suave proto-Warren William. I’ve never seen that early Stanwyck he’s in…

  5. David Boxwell Says:

    I have. It’s as bad as she said it was. His speaking voice was a “cultivated” light tenor’s like John Gilbert’s. He lasted in the business until 1941. Marriage lavande to Vilma Banky.

    Banky-La Rocque…

  6. Rod didn’t do that well in talkies, his star fell quite a bit in the period I researched (c.1927-33). He was quite big in silents. Also I agree with Mr. Boxwell, the Stanwyck is nothing anyone need see. Of course it gets higher ratings in IMDb than many a better film.

    MGM sure got their money’s worth out of the zoom loan.

  7. This is wonderful. Like most of my generation I probably first encountered the JB Hyde impression as a thing when Zero Mostel pulled one in “Funny Thing…” but this is my favourite:

  8. Very nice. Been so long since I saw The Comic, I’d forgotten all that stuff. Carl Reiner sure can’t evoke a period sensibility in his framing and cutting, can he? But the performances transport you.

    Lack of joined-up thinking: I always found Zero’s transformation extremely funny, but it hadn’t occurred to me until this moment that he was doing Barrymore. Is it possible I haven’t watched that movie since seeing Dr J & Mr H?

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