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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

'Why Be Good?' DVD: Silent Film Communicates Timeless Truths

Why Be Good?
The 1929 silent film "Why Be Good?," which is relatively recent addition to the Warner Archive DVD library, is notable both for vivaciously depicting the Jazz Age and for the timeless morals in this pre-Code film. It also benefits from the participation of acclaimed (and prolific) director William Seiter and star Colleen Moore.

Archive also shows excellent instincts in making the following clip from "Good" available, courtesy of YouTube. This spoiler-free scene wonderfully captures the '20s style spirit of the film.



Moore plays 20-something working girl Pert Kelly who spends her days as a well-regarded department store clerk and her nights as a well-liked flapper (a.k.a. party girl.) Not having the benefit of '70s and '80s sitcoms, Pert does not recognize the wisdom of the belief of her father that Pert presenting an image of a loose woman makes men believe that that reflects her true personality and related willingness to make whoopee.

The worlds of Pert and department store heir Winthrop Peabody, Jr., played by future Commissioner Gordon in the '66 "Batman" series Neil Hamilton, collide when they meet while she is enjoying what is a typical night for her and he is slumming as part of celebratory debauchery on the evening before he begins his job as the personnel director at the department store that his father owns and that employs Pert.


In true romcom style, our leads fall in love at the raucous Boiler Room establishment and share a highly amusing moment when an oblivious Jr. calls Pert into his office the next morning to chastise her for being late. His embarrassment at discovering that the object of his discipline is also the object of his affection leads to what arguably is an overreaction.

For his part, Peabody Sr. merely advises that his son exercise good judgment in his personal and professional lives. The primary message regarding both is that Jr. should be careful regarding acting in haste and repenting at leisure. 

After sacking Pert, Jr.  uses his charm and other resources to rekindle their relationship to the extent that it seems that he will get her in the sack in the bedroom despite sacking her in the office. The scene in which it is determined how much Jr. will demand of Pert and the extent to which she will go to keep her man (and her job?) is one of the best in the film and deserves a place among the best clips from the silent film era.

The awesomeness regarding the aspects of "Good" described above and those, including the oily creep with whom Pert finds herself early in the film, make this film well worth seeing.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Good" is welcome to use the modern devices of email or Twitter (via @tvdvdguy) to contact me.