Why Be Good? (1929)

For her last silent film, Colleen Moore returned to the character type that had made her a star in 1923’s Flaming Youth: the flapper. Just to remind audiences how much they loved her, First National billed the film as “Flaming Youth—1929 Model!” In truth, the film represents an accommodation to changing times as the roaring ‘20s gave way to a new decade. This time, Moore’s flapper is really a good girl who only pretends to drink so she won’t be rejected by the fun kids at the local speakeasy. There she runs into the handsome young Neil Hamilton, who turns out to be the boss’s son, leading to objections from both families. Hamilton’s father thinks she’s after him for his money, while Moore’s parents are worried that Hamilton is just another two-timing playboy. It takes some clever plotting to get the two to their final fadeout. Although there’s no spoken dialogue in the film, it was shown with synchronized score and sound effects. WHY BE GOOD? was thought lost for decades, with only the soundtrack surviving. In the late ‘90s, however, a print was discovered in Italy, leading to its current restoration thanks to The Vitaphone Project. Along with Moore’s delightful performance, the film also contains early bits by Jean Harlow, Andy Devine, Mischa Auer, Phil Harris and Grady Sutton.

(d. William A. Seiter, 84m, Digital)