My TCM Discovery, Colleen Moore in WHY BE GOOD?

Turner Classic Movies channel has acquired a cult-like following of devoted fans who enjoy sharing their retro film nerdiness together via social media and activities like the TCM Film Festival. The network is elevating this social-meets-movie-watching experience for their fandom with the #LetsMovie campaign, as part of their overall strategy to include a broader audience.

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To reflect a slew of social sharing activities this month, such as launching new #LetsMovie emojis, @NitrateDiva joins in on the fun by hosting the TCM DISCOVERIES BLOGATHON on Saturday, 9/19. Today we classic film obsessives weigh in on our shared joy of cinema with family and friends via the blogosphere. So what films and friendships have you discovered through TCM? For me, it’s almost too many to list. But for the sake of simplicity, I’ll give a singular and recent example of William A. Seiter’s WHY BE GOOD? (1929)

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I knew of Colleen Moore, but not that well. She fashioned that same adorable, dark bob like a less sophisticated and less serious version of Louise Brooks. I was fortunate to see her on a big screen with live musical accompaniment in Alfred E. Green’s ELLA CINDERS (1926) at the 2014 Kansas Silent Film Festival. With a hilarious Cinderella aims for Hollywood twist on the ole fairy tale, I was immediately smitten with this plucky, funny lady. My chance to see her again on the big screen came along at the 2015 TCM Film Festival with the screening of WHY BE GOOD?

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[I love the catchy phrase from the poster, “she won him with her pep, but almost lost him with her rep.”]

Introduced by famed author and film historian Cari Beauchamp, I was excited to see this lovingly restored flick featuring Colleen Moore as flapper Pert Kelly. She’s a department store clerk by day and a flirty, energetic party girl by night. Also stars Neil Hamilton as the heir apparent and boss’s son. If you don’t already know Hamilton by his other PreCode roles, perhaps you recognize him as Commissioner Gordon from 1966 TV series Batman. One surprise that Cari provided us was to look out for a cameo of a young Jean Harlow in the background of a scene. Sure enough, there she was; on a bench with a man’s head in her lap.

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The story is straight forward – a working class party girl meets wealthy playboy, they fall for each other but she must prove to his father that she’s good enough for him. But there is SO much more here than what the formula suggests. It’s stylistically a rich, sweet treat to savor with all the costumes and music reflecting the jazz age, with strong nods into scintillating PreCode. What was most surprising about this film was the feminist messages and tones it reveals. Even by today’s standards, the entire audience was clapping and loudly cheering by the empowered messaging expressed by her character.

There’s a tremendous plethora to be enchanted by this film and Colleen Moore’s charming persona. But what takes it to the next level was screening this joyful event as a shared experience, with people just like me. Sitting in that darkened theater that morning in Hollywood on March 28th, 2015, it was a marvelous way to greet the day. Laughing, smiling, cheering… all together. Sure, we may come from different walks of life, work different jobs, live in different parts of the world. But in those shared cinematic moments, we are family.

So go enjoy your #LetsMovie moments. Be moved, laugh, cry, cheer, or even applaud if you feel it. We’re all one in the ‘TCM Tribe’.

Colleen More_WhyBeGood

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Comments

  1. Such a delightful film with a sadly still relevant message worked in! Fun that this is your TCM discovery because I’m excited for Colleen that her star is regaining some height. There was some contention over the bob and who had it first Colleen or Louise, but in an interview Colleen expressed more frustration that a smaller player like Louise was eclipsing her in status amongst those interested in silent film. The sad fact was that so many of Colleen’s films were lost when they could have been saved, and Louise had those Pabst films to secure her lasting status. So happy your write-up helps let people know what great fun Colleen is on the screen!

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  2. I can’t wait to put this one under the “seen it” column. I love your description of the film and of the joyously shared experience of the viewing.

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  3. This film was recently restored, right? Well, I’d give anything to see a silent film on the big screen, and on TCMFF it would be a dream coming true. I bet a blogathon about film dicoveries at the TCMFF would be as big as this one!
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂
    Kisses!
    Le

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  4. NYPD Detctive says:

    I watched this film for the very first time 9/26/15. Over the past few years I’ve become intrigued by silent films and the silent actors.

    I’ve been looking forward every Sunday to Silent Sunday on TCM. Colleen Moore has a beautiful face that you cannot stop looking at. I am now hooked on silent films.

    Thank you for letting me share

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