Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Silent film star Colleen Moore

Colleen Moore (1899-1988) was one of the most popular and beloved stars of the American silent screen. Remembered primarily as a comedienne in such films as Ella Cinders (1926) and Orchids and Ermine (1927), Moore's career was also filled with dramatic roles that often reflected societal trends. A trailblazing performer, her legacy was somewhat overshadowed by the female stars that followed.


Jeff Codori - author and Colleen Moore researcher extraordinaire - maintains an impressive website devoted to the actress. Jeff's site can be found at  He has put a lot of work into the site, and it contains lots of pictures and lots of interesting text. I would encourage everyone to check it out.

Also, well worth checking out is Jeff's biography of the actress, Colleen Moore: A Biography of the Silent Film Star (McFarland). The book is available in soft-bound and Kindle editions.

Ten years of research went into the creation of this book, giving the most complete account of her childhood and film career to date, including a look behind the scenes of many of her films, as well as a look at the evolution of her studio First National, and how it's fortunes were affected by the actress'. Many never-before seen photos, including family photographs and candids, are included. It is a must-have for silent film and Colleen Moore enthusiasts.

I have seen only a few of Colleen Moore's films, and they are delightful! I think they compare favorably to those of Marion Davies, another undervalued performer. I wish more Colleen Moore films were in circulation. Like Louise Brooks, she is something extra special.

Speaking of Colleen Moore films, on Saturday September 6th at 7:30 pm, Why Be Good? (1929) will be screened in Los Angeles. In this, her final silent film, Colleen Moore plays a wild flapper with a dubious reputation, who, after a vivacious night of dancing, finds herself romantically linked to her boss’s son. Why Be Good? contains a Vitaphone soundtrack with sound effects and synchronized music, chiefly hot jazz and Twenties dance music played by such period greats as Jimmy Dorsey, Phil Napoleon, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang. The big-budgeted film, filled with beautiful art deco sets, features a young Jean Harlow as a prominent dress extra.

Long believed to be a lost film, it was rediscovered though the perseverance of film historian Joseph Yranski and Ron Hutchinson, the founder of the Vitaphone Project. The search began when Yranski interviewed Moore, who told him that a copy of the film survived in an Italian film archive. Hutchinson was able to find the 16” Vitaphone discs 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.

Be sure and check back tomorrow for another Colleen Moore related blog . . .  about how Moore and Louise Brooks were sometimes confused.

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