For Reel

This Modern Age (1931)
August 27, 2012, 6:47 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Nick Grinde

Joan Crawford was the foremost example of the Jazz Age baby in the 1920s and 30s. In gowns by Adrian and often surrounded by attractive men and women in various states of intoxication, This Modern Age depicts her at her most ravishing. She’s not quite the sophisticated presence that she would be later into the thirties – here, she’s a woman who lives only to have fun, quick-witted and pleasant but not necessarily ambitious. Her carefree lifestyle clashes head-on with the blue blood parents of her husband-to-be, played by Neil Hamilton, who are appalled by her lack of restraint. Like so many pictures of the pre-Code era, This Modern Age finds its pleasures in depicting lives rife with promiscuity and drunkenness, however by the end it ultimately restores the morale order with an anticipated marriage. This example is particularly unique in that Hamilton doesn’t only cleanse Crawford of her sin, but by association her birthmother, who has been living as the mistress of a high society Parisian man. Despite its predictability, however, the picture is a visual delight – cinematographer Charles Rosher indulges in the occasional flourish, as in a tracking shot that follows Crawford and Hamilton as they crawl on their hands and knees up a staircase, in addition to illuminating Crawford with a radiant glow that makes her look as beautiful as she ever did on screen. Crawford and Pauline Frederick, as her mother, are both well-suited to their roles, and it is nice to see such a loving relationship between a mother and daughter, rid of the familiar jealous rages that occur in similar melodramas.

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