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Why Be Good?

Warner Archive // Unrated // October 28, 2014
List Price: $18.95 [Buy now and save at Wbshop]

Review by John Sinnott | posted November 20, 2014 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Coleen Moore was one of the top box-office draws in the late 1920's. The one time WAMPAS Baby Star (1922) brought people to the theater in droves, and was incredibly well paid to do so yet few of the star's films survive today. Prior to this release, I had only seen one of her movies (Her Wild Oat, a film that is not available on home video, alas) at a film festival and was entranced by the energetic and charismatic actress. When Warner Brothers announced that their MOD program, Warner Archives, was going to release a restored version of a recently discovered film featuring the star, I jumped at the chance to screen it. I'm glad I did. Why Be Good? is a fun and eminently enjoyable light drama that surprises viewers with some social relevance a very modern outlook.

This is a story of two people from different sides of the tracks. Winthrop Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton) is the only son of a rich department store owner. While Winthrop's friends are happy to spend their time in jazz clubs and dancing night after night, he's more interested in making something of himself so he takes a job. The night before he is to start as a manager in his father's department store, a couple of his pals take him out to the new hot club in New York City, The Boiler.

Meanwhile, Pert Kelly (Colleen Moore) is spends her days toiling at work and her evenings out at parties with her friends. She still lives with her parents and contributes her paycheck to the household, but at night she likes to cut loose: wearing lipstick and short skirts, entering (and winning) dance contests, drinking, and flirting with men. Her father thinks it's disgraceful, but Pert promises her parents that she's a "good girl" and just out to have fun while she can. "Sure I'm good, Mom - but I have an awful time hiding it. I'd be disgraced if it were ever found out!"

One evening Pert lets a slick fella pick her up and they head out to The Boiler, where she avoids his advances while he gets drunk. After her date passes out, Pert catches Winthrop's eye and the two hit it off, having a great evening and staying out until three in the morning.

The next day the younger Peabody starts his job, and his first duty is to chastise all of the clerks who clocked in late. The young women all flirt with the handsome and well off new manager, something that makes Winthrop very uncomfortable, but what's more surprising is when Pert walks in to be scolded. Neither of them realize that they worked at the same store, and that makes things difficult all around.


Winthrop's father is worried that Pert is using her feminine charms to land a rich husband, while Pert's parents are concerned that the rich young man is just using their daughter and doesn't have honest intentions. When Winthrop starts to wonder if he's right about the woman he's fallen in love with, he comes up with a plan to decide things once and for all.

There's a lot to really like about this movie. The plot is straight forward, but it moves at a fast pace. Confusions (like the fact that they both work in the same store) that could have been expanded to fill the whole film get resolved quickly, which is a nice and unexpected change. The fact that both families have very real concerns made the movie very appealing too. There wasn't a manufactured misunderstanding, just a realization that some women are gold-diggers and some men are only looking for sex.

While Neil Hamilton is a bit stiff in his role, Colleen Moore more than makes up for it with her stellar performance. This was her Moore's last silent film, but it's easy to see why she was such a big draw at the box office. She has an incredible about of screen presence, and her energy and vitality are infectious. When she's on the screen, even she's just staring at a mannequin wistfully dreaming of the man she just met, she is enchanting.

The final thing that makes this movie a standout is the way that it looks at women and how they are judged. It is very forward thinking for 1929, and it never dominates the picture. Pert is a forceful woman, one that would be called liberated nearly half a century later. When her father chastises her for staying out late, she doesn't wilt and promise to be good. Instead she points out that she contributes just as much money to the household as he does, and as long as she's not doing any harm she'll have fun while she can. The most surprising bit happens in the film's conclusion however, when Pert rails against that double standard that men have. They want a date fun-loving girls, but they don't respect them. "Who is it demands the kissing and the spooning - who but you - you men. I suppose you'd like me if I wore long skirts and mittens and sat home knitting socks?" she rails. Social commentaries like that rarely turn up in films nowadays, so it's a nice surprise to see it in a film from the 1920's.

 The DVD:

This film arrives on a single DVD-R in a keepcase with cover art.


This silent film comes with the original Vitaphone (a sound-on-disc system) soundtrack nicely synched to the image. There are some sound effects (horns honking, the volume of music increasing when someone turns up the radio, and the like) but no dialog. The music that they selected way back in the day fits the mood of the film very well and it's great that the movie and sound could both still exist.


This film was thought lost for many years, with only the Vitagraph discs surviving, but thankfully a 35mm print was discovered in Italy. The film has been restored and the full frame image looks very good. There is a little natural grain, but the image is generally sharp and the contrast is excellent.



Final Thoughts:

This recently 'found' film is a true gem. Coleen Moore is magnetic in this nice dramedy that has a forward-thinking message (while never lecturing the audience). There are only a few Moore films that still survive and it's wonderful to have a nice looking version of this movie in my collection. Make a point of checking this one out. Highly Recommended.        






Highly Recommended

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