Friday, July 04, 2014

Why Be Good? (2014 Warner Bros. restoration)

Neil Hamilton, Edward Martindel, Colleen Moore
Jazzikuningatar. US 1929. D: William A. Seiter. Story+SC: Carey Wilson. DP: Sidney Hickox. ED: Terry Morse. C: Colleen Moore (Pert Kelly), Neil Hamilton (Peabody Jr.), Bodil Rosing (Ma Kelly), John Sainpolis (Pa Kelly), Edward Martindel (Peabody Sr.), Eddie Clayton (Tom), Louis Natheaux (Jimmy), Collette Merton (Julie), Dixie Gay (Susie), Jean Harlow. P: John McCormick per First National Pictures, Inc. DCP. 90'. B&w. From: Warner Bros. Restaurato da Warner Bros. presso il laboratorio L'Immagine Ritrovata / Restored by Warner Bros. at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory
    Based on the print at Cineteca Italiana di Milano.
    Introduced by Ned Price, in the presence of the restoration team.
    Screened with earphone commentary in Italian at Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 4 July 2014

Ned Price (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014, catalogue and website): "Why Be Good?, Colleen Moore's final silent, is a First National Film with no dialog, but contains a Vitaphone soundtrack with synchronized music and sound effects. The soundtrack is full of hot jazz and twenties dance music, and confirmed on it are such period jazz greats as Jimmy Dorsey, Phil Napoleon, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang. The film portrays Colleen Moore as a wild flapper, dancing though beautiful art deco sets. Jean Harlow makes an early appearance as a prominent dress extra. Why be Good? was long believed to be a lost film, it was re-discovered though the perseverance of Film Historian, Joseph Yranski and Ron Hutchinson of the Vitaphone Project. The search began when Joseph interviewed actress Colleen Moore, who told him that a copy of the film survived in an Italian Film Archive. Ron Hutchinson was able to find a 16" Vitaphone disc containing the soundtrack and the task of locating the missing picture began. Gian Luca Farinelli of Cineteca di Bologna contacted Matteo Pavesi of Cineteca Italiana di Milano, who graciously allowed access to the 35mm nitrate dupe negative for the restoration at L'Immagine Ritrovata in conjunction with Warner Bros. The restoration will have a world premier at Il Cinema Ritrovato." Ned Price (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014, catalogue and website)

Jeff Codori (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014, catalogue and website): "Why Be Good? had many of the requisite elements: a bad girl who is actually good deep down; poor girl imported into a rich environment; mistaken identities; and the fairy-tale ending. Pert Kelly, a counter girl in a New York department store, has a reputation for promiscuity, but is secretly a virtuous woman. She meets Peabody, Jr., at a roadhouse one night, and they make a date to meet again the following evening. The next morning, Pert is late for work and is called on the carpet by the personnel manager, who turns out to be Peabody, Jr. His father, who owns the store, fires Pert, but Peabody, Jr. is (predictably) smitten with her. He invites her to one of his parent's fancy soirées. His father doubts Pert's virtue, so Junior decides to evaluate her by bringing her to a disreputable roadhouse where he has staged an elaborate test. She protests and, convinced, Junior marries her right away." Jeff Codori, Colleen Moore. A Biography of the Silent Film Star, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC 2012 (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014, catalogue and website)

In his introduction Ned Price explained the care that had been taken to put back together the sound and the image of this silent film which was released at the time with a music score on disc.

AA: Why Be Good? has hardly been seen in 80 years. A Colleen Moore vehicle directed by William A. Seiter, an ace in comedy and musical, a Hollywood veteran who knew the secret of doing star vehicles. There was a feeling of pleasant anticipation in the packed cinema, and Why Be Good? delivered.

It's a typical jazz age comedy with flappers and millionaires. The stern father instructs his son, about to take charge of the company as a boss of 200 men - and 1000 girls. "Some of the girls are hot stuff. Don't get mixed with any of them". On the last carefree night Peabody, Jr. is doing the round of the night spots such as Jazzland and The Boiler (with an oversized boiler emitting huge clouds of steam). There he inevitably meets Pert, a girl with a reputation...

This is where I had to leave for Les Croix de bois. But I had noticed Seiter's talent with humoristic ensemble shots, party scenes, and the zest and the panache expected of a Colleen Moore film.

The jazzy Vitaphone score, restored from vintage shellac disks, is perfect.

The image looks good in a digital, occasionally in a slightly duped kind of way.

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