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Our Modern Maidens

1929

Critics' Reviews    •   Our Reviews    •   Movie Posters    •    Lobby Cards    •   Misc. Images

Click here to see photos from the film.


 

US VHS.Warner Archive DVD.MGM silent. 75 minutes.  US release: 8/24/29.

VHS release: 9/5/2000.

DVD release: 9/21/10.

 

Cast: Joan Crawford (as "Billie Brown"), Rod LaRocque, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Anita Page, Edward Nugent, Josephine Dunn, Albert Gran.

 

Credits:  Story and Screenplay: Josephine Lovett. Producer: Hunt Stromberg. Director: Jack Conway. Camera: Oliver Marsh. Titles: Ruth Cummings, Marion Ainslee. Editor: Sam S. Zimbalist. Costume Design: Adrian. Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons.

 

Plot Summary: This follow-up to MGM's 1928 hit Our Dancing Daughters reunites the female stars of the earlier film: Joan Crawford (in her last silent film) and Anita Page. Crawford is engaged to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (her real-life husband at the time), but both she and her fiance fall in love with other people before the wedding takes place. Fairbanks Jr. renders Anita Page pregnant, but goes through with his wedding to Crawford all the same. Meanwhile, Crawford romances diplomat Rod La Rocque, partly in the hopes of advancing Doug's career, but mostly out of boredom. At any other studio, the romantic intrigues of Our Modern Maidens would be played out in small living rooms and cozy apartment houses. But MGM had a positive mania for placing its stars in the biggest, draftiest mansions possible, then dressing them to the nines in expensive costumes designed by the studio's own fashion arbiter Adrian. Our Modern Maidens proved successful, spawning a third in this loosely constructed series, Our Blushing Brides (one contemporary critic wondered aloud if the next film would be Our Dizzy Divorcees). ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

 

Notes:

• This is the second of three films in the "Our" series, capitalizing on the success of Our Dancing Daughters the year before.

• This is the only film to co-star Joan and husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Their characters are engaged in the movie; six weeks before shooting began, Joan and Fairbanks had announced their own real-life engagement. (US)

• Joan said that this was the first film in which the wardrobe department was allowed to pay special attention to her clothes. (EB)

 

IMDb page.

Complete title cards.

 


 

Critics' Reviews:

Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times

September 7, 1929

 

Further adventures of a group of skylarking youngsters of this age of speed are depicted rather interestingly in "Our Modern Maidens," a silent film with sporadic outbursts of song which owes its being chiefly to Josephine Lovett, who was also responsible for the story of that other wild youth experiment, "Our Dancing Daughters." This current effusion is perhaps a trifle more restrained and better acted than its predecessors, but its plot is no tower of strength, being more or less reminiscent of an old melodrama in 1929 clothes. Instead of trailing gowns, there are abbreviated skirts and hansom cabs are replaced by shining, high-powered automobiles.

Joan Crawford, her husband. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the golden-haired Anita Page and Rod La Rocque are the principals in this offering. Miss Crawford and Mr. Fairbanks Jr. go through a marriage ceremony, but in this piece of fiction their marital happiness is ended abruptly through the hysterical conduct of the girl, known as Kentucky (Miss Page). It is revealed, after Gil (Mr. Fairbanks) and Billie (Miss Crawford) have dawdled away from the altar, that Kentucky has a definite reason for objecting to the marriage. This results in the bride appearing alone before the battery of cameras and also in her sacrificing her father's confidence. She is a dauntless girl, who takes her misfortunes with a smile, which was not exactly, received in a sympathetic manner by an audience in the Capitol Theatre yesterday afternoon.

All's well that ends well, however, and to give this picture a cheerful conclusion Rod La Rocque encounters Billie in Paris and one presumes that after arrangements have been made for their marriage they enjoy a blissful existence.

Jack Conway, producer of this film, emphasizes the marriage ceremony between Billie and Gil. There are the clergy, the hosts of friends, the procession of maids of honor and the little page. At the party in the house there is the modernistic wedding cake and the gay coterie of young and old. All this is pictured, if anything, far too lavishly. But the same criticism applies to the film as a whole, for the narrative as it emerges on the screen carries little conviction and has not even the strength of an old melodrama with the self-same theme.

Miss Page is pretty, but her portrayal of intense grief is not especially impressive. Miss Crawford does well enough as the girl who encourages a diplomat's attentions with the hope that he may help Gil. Mr. La Rocque is sympathetic in his rôle, but it is surprising that he indulges his fancy for a sweater that reminds one of the Van Cortlandt Park golf course. Douglas Fairbanks gives a competent performance, and during the youthful escapades he not only mimics John Gilbert and John Barrymore but also imitates his own father's gestures and expressions in the film "Robin Hood."

Photoplay (1929):

    Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., in a sequel to Our Dancing Daughters. Must you be told that it's a sure-fire hit?

 

Variety (1929):

    Story is juvenile and silly but the sort of silliness the fans gobble by the carload....Miss Crawford's fans won't be disappointed, even a little bit. She wears her clothes as she always does and gives them the limit in a half-clad dance at one of her own house parties. Her pantomime is far-fetched but vivid.

 

Harry's Stuff web review (2003)

 


 

Our Reviews:

If you've seen Our Modern Maidens and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Include, if you like, a picture of yourself to accompany your review, as well as a star-rating (with 5 stars the best) and any of your favorite lines from the film.

 

Stephanie Jones, site creator.Stephanie Jones (September 2005)

Rating: star02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gif of 5

 

Our Modern Maidens, Joan's last silent film, isn't exactly a sequel to the previous year's smash hit Our Dancing Daughters despite its parallel title, but it does continue the adventures of the young, fast, rich set, anchored here by Joan's "Billie," another modern wild-but-decent daughter. Like OurDD, OurMM features wild parties, drinking, and dancing by jazz-baby Joan, as well as some snappily risque (for the time) dialogue along the lines of "There's something in my pocket...Dig for it" (um, that's an engagement ring that Billie comes up with) and "Lunch is poured!"

 

This movie, like OurDD, opens fast---in the first 30 minutes or so, the youthful Moderns flirt, neck, race cars, and party hard and lavishly. Anita Page---the wicked Ann from OurDD---is also on hand here as Billie's good-girl friend "Kentucky," who admires Billie but is also in love with Billie's fiance Gil. Gil is played by Joan's real-life fiance Doug Fairbanks, Jr., in their only film together. Fairbanks, whom I've never seen act before, is dazzlingly good-looking, charismatic, and witty here: The highlight of his performance, and one of the highlights of the film, comes at the party in the opening scenes, when he entertains the crowd with a series of clever impressions of famous leading men: a grimacing John Barrymore, a manically intense shoulder-rolling John Gilbert, and, most fun of all, a version of his own swashbuckling dad Doug Fairbanks as Robin Hood.

 

After the jazz-hot first half-hour, the film settles into its plot: Billie and Gil are secretly engaged, but Billie still dallies with the more mature and important diplomat, well-played with restrained intensity by Rod LaRocque. Gil is jealous and himself dallies with the innocent Kentucky, who's completely in love with him. Who will end up with whom?!

 

But the lightweight plot's not really the point here. The whole purpose of OurMM is to again showcase (and cash in on) the spunky, stylish, and thoroughly modern Joan as a Party Girl with a Heart of Gold. She doesn't disappoint. Whether jauntily cutting loose on a drum-kit or dancing with bare midriff or nonchalantly shooting craps and drinking on a train before noon, Joan is indeed "all that." And a real actress, to boot. The early fun stuff is specifically for her teenaged and collegiate fans of the time, but also check out her later scene with LaRocque when he's semi-manhandling her and she's genuinely scared but not about to show it, as well as her post-wedding scene when she must, without her new groom, run the gantlet of a gossipy crowd. In each case, her character's "game face" is securely on, but we viewers also get to see the struggle behind it. Despite just a bit of eye-popping and lip-biting (early-Joan mannerisms that turn up throughout the '30s and occasionally in her later films), her character's inner battles with serious outward situations are done naturally and interestingly---a preview of and prelude to her more dramatic roles upcoming in the next few years of her career.

 


 

James (March 2005)

Rating: star02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gifstar02_pink.gif of 5

 

I confess: I’ve fallen madly and hopelessly in love with this movie! As a long-term Joan Crawford fan, an art deco aficionado, and someone who’s been crazy about the “Roaring ‘20s” since childhood, this film hit all the right notes and had me grinning from beginning to end. This is the most charming and delightful movie I’ve seen in a long time, and I truly can’t praise it enough.

 

In Our Modern Maidens, Joan plays an aptly named character named “Billie," and the film parallels reality to some extent by showcasing the young Joan Crawford/Billie Cassin the way she was during the 1920s: happy, carefree, and dancing up a storm. It’s a rare treat to see Joan like this, and she gives an expressive, vivacious, and absolutely adorable performance as a strong willed young flapper not unlike herself. I really enjoyed seeing her this way, and it was fun to spot what would later become “Crawfordisms” long before her screen persona was fully developed. The jaunty, "tip of the hat" wave she gives (and later used to great effect as Sadie Thompson in Rain) is just one example of this. She’s confident and cheeky in this movie, and it’s a riot watching her bang away on a drumset, and then perform a sexy dance number in a revealing bra and skirt outfit with her navel on full display {which was pretty hot stuff in 1929).

 

Playing opposite Joan are Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., as Gil, Anita Page as Kentucky, Josephine Dunn as Ginger, and matinee idol Rod La Rocque (love that name!) as Glenn, all of whom deliver strong performances. Anita Page is a little “hammy," but she’s extremely cute strumming her ukulele and mouthing “boop-boop-bee-doop” while she plays. Josephine Dunn portrays jaded and bitchy quite well, and she garners some genuine belly laughs as a result. Rod La Rocque plays it straight for the most part, and he’s appropriately dashing and debonair as he woos Joan. During a seduction scene, he grabs her hair and pulls her head back for an aggressive, passionate kiss which still manages to steam up the screen almost eighty years later.

 

Doug Jr. is surprisingly funny in his role. He demonstrates his talents as an impersonator in one scene, brazenly imitating his father as Robin Hood by leaping on top of a piano (I’ll bet he heard aboutthat later at Pickfair!). It’s fascinating to watch Joan and her soon-to-be first husband acting together. In one scene, Doug Jr. tells Joan: “There’s something in my pocket...reach in and dig for it," and Joan’s cheeky expression as she reaches in is priceless(double entendre all the way!). Their love for each other is clearly evident in this film, and they make a very attractive couple, epitomizing the "flaming youth" of their generation.

 

Adrian’s costumes are sexy and glamorous, and if you look very carefully it’s possible to detect tiny, almost imperceptible shoulder pads in Joan’s wedding dress (the seeds had been planted!). The authentic art deco sets are beyond description and absolutely stunning. The wedding scene in particular is straight out of a Tamara De Lempicka painting, right down to Joan carrying a bouquet of white calla lilies as she marches down the aisle. Even the wedding cake is shaped like a towering art deco skyscraper, and the entire sequence is a love letter to the style and design of the era.

 

Our Modern Maidens is a rare gem and a really fun movie. In my opinion, Jack Conway (who directed some of Gloria Swanson's best silents) skillfully and deftly created a jazz age masterpiece. The mis-matched lovers plot is simple and effective, the cast is charming, the sets and costumes are pure eye candy, and the film moves at a fast-paced clip, never lagging once. I absolutely loved this movie...what a treat!

 

Memorable Lines

 

“Leave it to me! I’ll get you to Paris if I have to start another war!”  Billie to Gil.

 

“All together, children...what are our thoughts on leaving school?”  Billie to girls.

“Men! Men! Men! Men!! MEN!!” The girls' response.

 

“Lunch is poured!”  Waiter on private railway car.

 

“She must have been in the Northwest Mounted...she always gets her man!”  Ginger.

 

“What do you think of a groomless honeymoon? Modern, isn’t it? I’m just starting the fashion.”  Billie.

 

“Do tell us...is this a modern moral...or just another immoral modern?”  Ginger to Billie.

“Do you think you’d know the difference, darling?”  Billie to Ginger.

 


 

Movie Posters:

        

               

US one-sheet.         Sweden.

 

 


 

Lobby Cards:

 

    

 

    

 

   

 

 


 

Misc. Images:

 

Lyrics by Joe Goodwin. Music by Gus Edwards. Robbins Music Corp.         Australian daybill.         A French photoplay.

 

 

   Flyer. Image courtesy of Silent Film Still Archive.       Flyer for midnight show. Image courtesy of Silent Film Still Archive.

 

 

  

 

Above: Denver, Colorado, program.

 

Below:  Newspaper ad from unknown US city.

 

 


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