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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Scorcher On For 1923


Flaming Youth (1923) But a One-Reel Flicker

"Hot" novels were once the thing. As late as early 70's, they'd be snuck into schools and hidden from parents. I remember The Carpetbaggers and certain pages from The Godfather ... but what's left to shock us now? Nothing, it seems, and that's got to be tough on writers and publishers. During the 20's, there were all sorts of barriers to leap. Dubious talent like Elinor Glyn could rise like a phoenix to both print and film-adapt glory. Hers got tongues clucking, plus teens reading. Has even the woman who wrote Harry Potter known such fame as Glyn? So what if posterity dealt harsh? --- junk writers had their fun while here, and for most, that's truest measure of success. Ripe fruit for its day was Flaming Youth, first (of nineteen in a mere eighteen months) printing in 1923, and written by Samuel Hopkins Adams, who'd later pen It Happened One Night plus others made into popular films. Flaming Youth wasn't outright erotica, but dealt "frankly" with sex issues that saw girls give in to urge awakened by jazz and bootleg hootch. That it became a movie was inevitable, but would Colleen Moore indulge as did her literary forebear?


"Pat" is the character's name, underage in opener chapters, but pawed nonetheless by men and boys. Her mother is a libertine who dies early, Dad distant and keeping mistresses. The book is probably accurate as to life among the pampered, Hopkins a stern observer of social abuses (he exposed, for newspapers, public health scandals and phony medicines). "Warner Fabian" was his nom de plume for Flaming Youth and a couple other sizzlers he penned when at rest from crusading. The movie of Flaming Youth, produced in 1923 (no time wasted between book and film) would establish Colleen Moore as flapper divine, the title itself synonymous with her. Had not Clara Bow come along to seize the belt, Moore would be most-remembered 20's darling. Some of her silents, most of which tried to reignite Flaming Youth spark, have turned up lately, at least one, Why Be Good? on DVD, and indeed very good.



Flaming Youth goes largely missing, sad to say, a single reel all that survives, and housed at the Library Of Congress. That's on You Tube, giving glimpse of the whole. Some of what was noted at the time is here, including a wild party and skinny-dip scene. Colleen Moore was appealing but not so sexy as Clara Bow. Still, I'd give much to have more of Moore, as how many jazz babies are here at all? (some lesser names don't have a sample extant) It was fun to read Flaming Youth and then fill in blanks of the LoC reel, like reading hieroglyphics before examining mummies. What a pity so many of these old films are gone, but with more popping up all the time (Internet, thus better/wider communication, a big assist in that), who knows but what Flaming Youth, at least reels of it, may surface. In the meantime, there's still the book, all over E-Bay and Amazon marketplace, thanks to 20's folk sneaking reads when best books were those that sent thermometers highest.


3 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Moore was a charmer! Years back, I caught a 35mm screening of TWINKLE TOES and the surprisingly packed audience was delighted (even if she did not have her signature 'do in that one.) Maybe not as 'hot' as Bow, she certainly was a beguiling cutie! And, apparently, a sharpie with her own dough.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Based on the fairly gentle "Why Be Good?" and the cheerful "Ella Cinders", wonder if Moore was carving out a specific niche between the emphatically wholesome Mary Pickford vehicles and the racier, angst-ridden Joan Crawford features.

Also trying ti fit Marion Davies into the flapper parthenon. In comedies ("Show People", "The Patsy" and "The Red Mill") she was a good girl, but ready and very able to deliver goofiness. A bit like Moore, but without the hint of the gamin.

Clara Bow certainly delivers sex appeal as well as youthful energy and some comic flair, but I get the sense she's not as total a comic performer as Moore and Davies. If stardom hadn't happened she might have prospered in two-reelers, not as the star but as a lively heroine / straightwoman who keeps pace with the lead comic without getting bigger laughs.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Jack Casey, one of my best teachers (Grade 12, English, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) put all the books he wanted his kids to read in a bookcase with glass doors and a lock. He hid the key. Then he told his kids if they read them he would spank them. Of course, they read every one of them. When he told that story to us I said to myself, "This is the only way the Garden of Eden makes sense." There is nothing worse than reading a piece like this and then finding out we can not see the movie. Thanks again for keeping us informed. Whatever you want your kids to do, forbid it.

5:41 AM  

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