Thursday, 30 October 2014

Harry walks the walk… Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926)

Growing up with my first exposure to silent film from Bob Monkhouse’s Mad Movies show –  a weekly home movie show for the comedian who was never more sincere than when discussing these films  – I was always aware that there was a fourth member of the top tier of silent comedians: a second Harry and one who had his own distinct proposition.*

Harry Langdon was the baby-faced hero who had a mix of Keaton’s stoicisim, Lloyd’s optimism and Chaplin’s  trousers… Langdon had his own pace though and one quite different from the rest… Timing, as we all know, is the essence of “funny” and all the comedy acts had to have it. A daft thing happens, they look into camera, at each other, into the middle distance… and then the after-effect: a fall, a slap, a hit with a brick or nothing at all… Laughter comes out of the silver shadows and the audience response is entirely down to the skills of the performer: the difference between comic or not being a complex equation involving motion, emotion and empathy.

Harry's poster girl
Harry Langdon had been around the block coming up through vaudeville and only started his film career in the early 1920’s (well into his thirties) when he signed with Mac Sennett. He really hit his stride mid-decade with a succession of feature-length comedies including Frank Capra’s The Strong Man and this film directed by Harry Edwards.

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp sees Harry as the son of a one-shop shoe-maker (Alec B Francis) who is on the brink of being driven out of business by bigger, more ruthless competitors. He needs $25,000 and has only a few weeks to get it and a son high on romantic ideals but low in useful application. The scene is set almost instantly: how will this drowsy-eyed, soft-lad ever come to the rescue?

Father seeks help from son...
There’s an almost indecent haste about a narrative that is very tightly wound around its central characters – just an excuse to set up situations for the star to act and react. Harry is revealed to be in love with the poster girl for the crushing competition, Burton Shoes, she is Betty  Burton (Joan Crawford) who just happens to be the daughter of their CEO John Burton (Edwards Davis)…  He stares longingly at her image on massive billboards that dominate the landscape as they dominate his father’s business and doesn’t seem to resent her association with his family’s imminent financial ruin.

When shoe-makers collide: Logan vs Burton
But maybe that’s it about Harry’s persona, he’s haplessly in love and we all know that in spite of the practicalities of everyday human emotional response, he’ll stay true to her and to us and that, somehow, all will be well. He’s not just a baby-face but a virtual child who the audience can trust to stay lucky in a world very similar to the one they inhabit. Tonight, just for an hour, we can achieve something just by being ourselves and trusting in love and good fortune…

Tom Murray
Not that things will be easy for Harry. His father’s landlord is a mean man called Nick Kargas (Tom Murray) who also happens to be a world champion distance walker. Big Boss Burton just happens to set up a cross-country walking race with a winner’s prize of $25,000 which Nick is clear favourite to win. It’s exactly the amount Harry needs to save his father’s shop and yet he stumbles into the competition through his disorientated affection for Betty. There’s no plan and even his determination in proclaiming that he’ll get the money fades almost the instant he steps outside and doesn’t know which way to turn….

Betty decides Harry can compete...
Carrying Nasty Nick’s bags to the event, Harry is mistaken for the athlete before being dragged into the competition: we know he’s going to win it but we’ve no idea how – he hasn’t Buster’s hidden strength or Chaplin’s doggedness but he has a disorganised courage that will rise to any occasion. So bring on the prancing walkers all six foot tall, better equipped and experienced: they haven’t got a chance and we know it.

Staring up at her picture – when, frankly, he should be making plans – he is amazed to find Betty right behind him. Incredibly there’s an instant bond between the two and a short-hand romance that takes flight with a glance, a trip and the kindest of words. Almost as if the audience need to be reassured about the love story before Harry can really set about the business of comedy…

Girl looks at boy looking at girl
Through the next 50 minutes Harry is left hanging from a fence hundreds of feet in the air, locked up on a chain gang after stealing fruit, dragged behind a train for 40 miles and goes one on one against a cyclone. Harry takes everything is taken in his stride and Betty pops up at every staging post to remind us of his additional rewards should he win.

His father follows events by means of newsreels at his local picture house – a reminder of how much cinema was plugged into people’s lives by this point: never mind the rolling news broadcasts, the people of the twenties had picture news.

Events proceed as you’d expect and the ending coda shows Betty and Harry married and secure with a new baby who, naturally, looks very much like his dad… they couldn’t resist: who needs a baby when you have Baby Face?

It’s in that odd face where Langdon’s secret lies: he never tires and bumbles through in a freeform way until finally faced with the impossible, he triumphs be it a cyclone or a big bully of a champion-walker-landlord! We should all be so lucky.

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp is available on a Kino DVD along with two other features: excellent value and a reminder of Landgon’s high-point. He may not have had the longevity of The Crucial Three but he had the hilarity.

*Probably best to reclassify these players as comedic romantic leads… and Roscoe Arbuckle is certainly up there with Mabel Normand too… 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Clear-view mirror… The Student of Prague (1913)

“Where thou art shall I be unto the hour when I seat me on the stone of thy grave…”

This film is often described as being perhaps the first true horror feature film, or maybe that’s just the first actually scary horror feature… It stars and is co-directed by one of the most influential figures in German silent film, Paul Wegener, later a Pharaoh, a Mummy, a Sheik and a Golem... and is now a magnificent 82 minutes long.

I had previously only seen a dilapidated cheap DVD print from an hour-long multi-generational video and wondered why such a major film hadn’t been restored. Well I might be the last silent kid on the block to find out but the film has been revitalized by the Filmmuseum München using a variety of sources including prints from as far afield as Japan and the USA: and what a joy it is to behold – almost like finding a lost film.

The Filmmuseum have produced a version closer to the original length and have also included a performance of the original score by Josef Weiss which further adds to the feeling of Prague Regained. The music has been adapted for the chamber orchestra Orchester Jakobsplatz which is on a mission to revive the musical heritage of Jewish composers.

Even through the grey haze of the truncated version this is a rewarding film to watch and you can only imagine the impact it would have had on contemporary audiences. But with the 2013 restoration now we can truly see how powerful the story is…

Wegener and Rye plan their story in Prague
The Student of Prague (Der Student von Prag) was co-directed by Stellan Rye along with Wegener, was scripted by Hanns Heinz Ewers based, in outline, on Edgar Allan Poe’s story William Wilson* with a bit of Faust thrown in for good measure…

It concerns a talented swordsman and penniless student, Balduin (Wegener) who is fed up with his lot and all but ruined, the high-life having drained his funding and his hope (bet he wasn’t on a full grant!). The film open with him morosely ignoring the revels of his fellow pupils and the charms of the dancing waitress Lyduschka (Lyda Salmonova, who has to do a lot of dancing and climbing too…).

He is approached by the mysterious Scapinelli (John Gottowt) an old man with a reputation for sorcery and other miss-deeds, who tells him that there are other paths he could follow.
The two go walking and encounter the local hunt of Graf von Schwarzenberg (Lothar Körner). The Graf’s daughter son, Komtesse Margit (Grete Berger), is engaged to be married to her cousin Baron-Waldis Schwarzenberg (Fritz Weidemann), but the two argue – she does not love him – and her horse bolts running past Balduin and into the river.

The young student doesn’t hesitate and rescues Margit from the water with some difficulty judging from Wegener’s attempts to lift Miss Berger: clearly weighed down by her voluminous and water-logged under-garments. Smitten, he returns to her house where he realises that the social gap between them is too large to ever permit a relationship… especially with her promised to the Baron.

Deflated Balduin frets alone in his apartment when suddenly Scapinelli appears and unloads a pile of coins and bank notes offering them to the young man in simple exchange for just “one thing in his rooms”. Not seeing the catch, Balduin signs on the dotted line and is shocked when Scapinelli takes his reflection from the mirror.

But Balduin cannot see the harm in losing his reflection, blinded by his new good fortune and the possibilities it brings. He works his way into the world of the wealthy and gradually gets Margit’s attention. All seems to be going well but the Baron does not take kindly to his new competitor.

Can you spot Lyduschka?
At the same time, Balduin is being stalked by Lyduschka and there is an excellent scene in which she scales the walls to spy on the lovers from the balcony with ancient Prague gloriously visible in the background. She sees Balduin’s illicit promise to Margit and finds message from him arranging a rendezvous with her… Lyduschka makes sure finds its way to the lady’s intended.

The young nobleman challenges Balduin to a duel and, even knowing the latter’s skills as a great swordsman, selects a blade as his weapon of choice. If he expects the fencing expert to use his skills to avoid serious injury his uncle tries to make certain by getting Balduin to promise to leave him unharmed.

But it is now that the full extent of Scapinelli’s evil scheme becomes apparent, as he sends Balduin’s double to fight the duel and to kill his opponent...

No spoilers: A wedge is driven between Balduin and Margit, he climbs into her room to try and explain yet his doppelganger appears out of the shadows just as she realises her love has no reflection. There can be no escape and as the confrontations escalate can Balduin kill his own shadow without destroying himself?

The two Balduins are filmed really well…the film’s tour de force of special effect with Wegener acting well against his shadow self. A double-exposure trick that’s been done a lot worse many times since but is here executed to near perfection with the spruced up images only highlighting the sublime technique on view.

Prague in the sunshine makes for an excellent backdrop adding quality depth of field to what could have been a shallow gothic melodrama. Wegener does well as the “student” (I think he was in his late thirties at the time) yet is matched by John Gottowt’s fiendish energy as Scapinelli…

The Student of Prague is still available on the abbreviated cheapo DVD but to get a clear view of the two sides of Paul Wegener wait for the Edition Filmmuseum DVD set which has been in the works for well over a year – I’ve been checking regularly but there’s no release date as yet. Don’t hesitate when it does become available!

*A version of William Wilson featured as part the 1967 horror compilation, Les Histoires Extraordinaires. Directed by Louis Malle it starred Alain Delon as the eponymous lead who becomes haunted by his own reflection. In this version of events Wilson is sadistic and his counter-part seems intent on preventing his wrong-doings. In spite of also featuring Brigitte Bardot the sequence fails to engage and is vastly overshadowed by Fellini’s Toby Dammit, the final story in the set. Featuring a magnetic Terrence Stamp, Toby Dammit is a tour de force showcasing Fellini’s still outstandingly-original cinematic vision.

There’s a nice review of that mixed bag to be found on Dusty Video Box’s site here. The Student of Prague is undoubtedly the better take on the tale in spite of the gap in technology… just goes to show that substance wins over style, sound and colour…

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

So much monkey business… The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola (1913)

Marcel Fabre
Back to Italy, Turin to be precise (sadly not Pordenone… next year!) and more pre-war Italian comedy following on from my evening at the IIC – a familiar face too in the form of Marcel Perez aka Marcel Fabre who played the fool in general and more specifically Tweedledum/Robinet. Here he is both lead actor and director, presiding over a mad mash-up of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and George Méliès: Around the Bend in 80 Minutes!

Nilde Baracchi and Marcel Fabre
As Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien has pointed out, the film is based on an 1879 novel from Albert Robida The Very Extraordinary Voyages of Saturnin Farandoul in the World's Five or Six Continents, and in all the Countries Known - and Even Unkown - to Monsieur Jules Verene (Voyage Très Extraordinaires De Saturnin Farandoul Dans Les 5 ou 6 Parties Du Monde Et Dans Tous Les Pays Connus Et Même Inconnus De M. Jules Verne) which, er, almost, says it all for this proto-steampunk photoplay that you watch with an incredulous smile through each audacious leap of logic to the next.

You can see Marcel’s elevator pitch: baby survives disaster at sea and is brought up by monkeys, leaving their island after growing up without a tail he makes his way in adventurous society with his simian skills and outrageous fortune! Who wouldn’t buy that? Certainly not the studio bosses in Turin…

A city for beavers... deep-sea diving troops
There are two versions doing the rounds, one at 58 minutes which is slightly more surreal than the more lengthy expositions of the 77 minute version restored to something like the original length. It is possible that this was a serial and the apparent missing footage along with the distinct episodes might well support that. In any event what remains has a compelling comic chemistry of its own and really shows the diversity of a period known mostly for its epics…

Hang onto your blog-reading hats for a plot summation that is itself a high-wire act combining supposition, badly-translated Italian and guess-work.

Look, no tail!
Oceana:  Saturnino Farandola is a baby thrown free of a sinking ship with nothing but a scribbled note revealing his true identity and a box to float in. All perish save for the tiny mite who floats with extreme good fortune towards an island ruled by kindly apes.  As primates go they make a fine bunch of monkeys, varying in size and agility all possessing tails and an uncontrollable urge to turn cartwheels and leap at every opportunity.

They raise Farandola as one of their own until, fully grown they cast him out for his lack of tail. Harsh perhaps but they’re understandably feeling short-changed after devoting the best years of their lives to his upbringing.  Distraught the man-child makes a raft and rows away from the island being eventually picked up by the crew of a passing ship, the Bella Leocadia.

The new captain
Carry on Jack: The sailors are confused by Farandola’s simian ways but he is eventually brought down to earth and their captain, opening the locket round his neck, discovers the explanatory note, raising his eyes to the sky in a miss-judged moment of acted recognition.

Faranadola begins an extraordinary sequence of adjustments to his new society. Pirates attack the ship taking the men as prisoners onto land where, at their leader’s instruction, they have an “orgy” (more like a booze-up but I’m not really an expert). Farandola frees himself and leads the counter-attack, defeating the drunken sailors and ending up getting himself appointed as captain.

The Wizard of Aus: The next episode hoves into view with Farandola and his new love, Mysora (Nilde Baracchi) deep-sea diving. They explore a Méliès-ian underwater world of giant-sized gold fish, random shrimps and a large paper mache whale that proceeds to swallow Mysora whole.  Distraught, Farandola tries to row after the whale but it easily evades capture…

A press report reveals that the whale has run aground and been captured by an Australian scientist. Now, I’m not so sure how qualified this man is because when Farandola’s shipmate is expelled from the whales mouth and climbs out of the tank, the aquatic academic thinks she might be a new species and resolves to keep her for examination.

The mad professor fights to keep his prize exhibit...
Farandola rushes to the rescue and declares war as the mad professor refuses to give up his new specimen. Things escalate rather alarmingly as Farandola has to enlist an army of his old money chums to storm the scientist’s remarkably well-defended laboratory. Overwhelmed the boffin blows up his own lab, but our hero manages to escape with Mysora in hand.

The famous Amazons of old Siam...
Amazons of Asia: The two enjoy a leisurely cruise to their next destination, old Siam in pursuit of a legendary white elephant (are there any other kinds?) which has been stolen from the King. They are greeted by Siamese Amazons (?!) who are trooping their colours or rather stripes...

Mysora becomes the prisoner of an evil advisor and Farandola and his men get captured after their attempt to find the precious pachyderm is uncovered. They escape only to be re-captured and stuck in barrels. But, through judicious mix of feminine wiles and opium (!?), Mysora manages to get them released and they float their way to safety… returning the elephant to the king who is mightily impressed gifting them with gold coins.

Death on the Nile: Off next to Africa where a hunting trip to the Nile is disturbed by the sight of two women being held captive by nasty natives.  Rather ingeniously, Farandola shoots two bears (who must have wandered a little too far south) and uses their skins to disguise himself and Mysora as they storm the camp and rescue the girls. After evading the rest of the angry tribe, Farandola puts on a spiked hunting suit to wrestle a lion to the death and then rescues the three women from kidnap by gorillas… He speaks their language you see…

We're not really bears at all!
Way out West: Farandola take the two girls back home but there isn’t time to tarry as he has to sail along the coast of North America… Here he somehow gets entangled in the late-running Civil War and, siding with “Milligan North”, gets captured by native Americans working with “Milligan South”. He is saved by yet another young woman who obviously likes his more feminist approach to adventuring.

The bad Americans are being led by one Phileas Fogg and as the conflict escalates, Farandola is made the good American’s leader and proceeds to lead his men ion an unorthodox campaign involving chloroform bombs and vacuum chutes.

Mild spoilers... The splendid climax involves a balloon battle high amongst the clouds… an impressively-bleak vision of the War to come.  Fogg has taken Mysora and Farandola has to fight through the skies to save her… Will he win the day and return to introduce his wife to his real family on their strange island in the sea…?

The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola is great value and whilst any missing the missing footage would make things a little clearer the story is pretty easy to follow… well certainly the second time round!

It’s packed full of invention and energy and co-director Luigi Maggi deserves great credit for not just holding Fabre’s imagination under control but making narrative sense of the frenetic adventures. There are many great shots from cinematographer Ottavio De Matteis and, considering how close this film is to the “tableau” era, it shows how free Turino cinema could be in support of a more pastoral photoplay.

A whale and a horse.
The film plays regularly on European art channels (merci to Andre for loaning me his copy) but I don’t think there’s a DVD currently available. Which is a shame: this is indeed an interesting film that adds more balance to my view of the output from the Cradle of Italian Cinema…

Albert Robida's book is available from Amazon and contains even more twists and turns than the above film: conquering Australia with Captain Nemo and traveling to Saturn for starters!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Battleship Invincible… The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927), LFF Gala with the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines

Back to the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall for the London Film Festival archive gala performance of The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927) a striking docu-drama with the emphasis on the latter and yet which manages to be authentic and even handed.

Of all the silent films at this year’s festival, Battles has had the most coverage and, remembrance to one side, one of the principle reasons is its revelation of another fine British silent film director in Walter Summers. Aside from marshalling eight Royal Naval ships in his re-enactments he also cuts, cross-fades and controls tempo with the skill of a Gance or an Eisenstein (although as the BFI’s Bryony Dixon points out, he probably hadn’t seen Potemkin at this stage).

Summers had fought in the Great War and he was at pains to keep any retelling of the conflict as respectful and procedurally-accurate as possible. Comic interludes and admirable-Admiralty (on both sides) apart, his drama is derived from the movement of the ships and his mastery of a compelling, historically-accurate narrative. Many sailors died in these battles – almost three and a half thousand - and he’s not going to make a drama out of their tragedy but a tribute.

Tonight was a special night with a magnificent, moving new score from Simon Dobson being performed by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines – a 24 piece ensemble in memory of the 24 bandsmen who perished on HMS Monmouth at Coronel. My cousin is a serving marine and whatever your politics and beliefs you have to respect the sacrifices these men and women have to make in the service of their country.

HMS Good Hope begins to slip away
This was a main them for Summers who showed the nobility of both sides, their discipline and willingness to follow the rules of engagement even down to helping to rescue the vanquished. There may have been broader political motivations behind this at the time but they shouldn’t diminish the director’s clear agenda. Born in Liverpool - as I'm contractually-obliged to point out - he described himself as a “workman”, constructing his pieces in methodological fashion with little or no aspiration to be an “artist”…

SMS Scharnhorst under attack
He had already made a number of Great War films by the time Battle came along but none on this scale. Working from a script co-written by John Buchan amongst others, this was to be the jewel in the crown of Harry Bruce Woolfe’s British Instructional Films re-telling of the greatest battles of the conflict still regarded as perhaps the “war to end all wars”; an alien event that, surely, could never happen again. The film’s international success suggested that hope was also shared outside of Britain.

There are no model shots in the film; everything is either in-studio or shot on the high seas using Summers' large grey acting fleet. The cinematography of Jack Parker should also be commended with the restored images revealing some dazzling compositions that help to create a believable spectacle under-pined by the close-quarters human drama in cramped cabins and over-heated boiler rooms.

Rapid-cut re-fit
There are strange echoes of more recent South Atlantic naval conflict as two Royal Navy battleships, HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible are rapidly made ready for a revenge mission after the defeat of Coronel. This sequence shows men working around the clock on the two battle cruisers and is a masterpiece of montage that composer Dobson found almost musical, so regular was the rhythm of the cutting, the hammer strikes and the movements of men on and off board.

But whilst South American German colonists gather to celebrate their victory, von Spee refuses to toast anything but the nobility of the vanquished noting also that a large bouquet of flowers should be kept for when his time comes…

After the almost impossible dash to ready the British squadron, the remainder of the film gives a detailed account of the second, decisive battle. War at sea moved at its own deathly pace and the margins between success and failure were remarkably prosaic, depending on the accuracy and calibre of your guns as well as basic speed: when the balance of forces became clear to von Spee he knew in moments that he faced defeat. Yet, he had found the British squad re-fuelling in Port Stanley and, had he pressed on, there may have been a different outcome…

The skill of Summers' film is in creating such a compelling story around these fateful moments. There are good performances – especially from von Spee and Vice Admiral Sturdee - yet the actors are unnamed and instead the credits list the names of the naval vessels involved along with the twenties ships that acted in their place.

That’s as it should be with Battles celebrating the communal resolve of the Royal Navy, the collective greatness achieved by the unity of spirit contained in these warcraft. It’s a past the navy are proud to celebrate but also one that connects to their future, as Admiral  Sir George Zambillas’ introduction made clear with his reference to the new "Elizabethan age" with the Royal Navy’s long-awaited aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth.

It watching silent film is a process of trying to re-connect with the sensibilities of their makers and audience, this event was lent additional poignancy by the naval presence - smartly uniformed marines were even handing out programmes. This along with the almost pristine restoration and the excellence of both music and musicians, created a moment in which the boundaries between past and present shifted just a little bit more than usual.

The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands is showing now in selected cinemas across the UK and is also available to view now on the BFI iPlayer.

Details of the battles are on the Naval History web pages and The Coronel Memorial  website.

The reality: HMS Inflexible picks up survivors from SMS Gneisenau (copyright IWM)
The Battle of Coronel was fought on 1 November 1914 with the loss of two Royal Naval ships: battle cruiser HMS Good Hope and light cruiser HMS Monmouth

1,570 British lives were lost.

HMS Good Hope
The Battle of the Falklands took place on 8 December 1914 with four German ships sunk: battle cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau along with the light cruisers SMS Nürnberg and SMS Leipzig.

1,871 German sailors were killed and 215 rescued.

SMS Scharnhorst

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lust for life… Why Be Good? (1929), LFF, BFI with Vitaphone

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a …very big screen… Choose Colleen Moore!

This film is so full-on that there were times when I had a genuinely middle-aged reaction to the incessant movement, energy and Vitaphoned-Hi-NRG soundtrack! Parents, this film can still make you feel over-protective of your daughters!

Why be Good? Has been a lost film since a massive fire cleaned out many First National pictures at the Warner Archives… Luckily a copy was found in an Italian archive and this has been fully restored and placed alongside its existing Vitaphone soundtrack.

 It’s the missing link between silence and sounds with the perfectly-synced song-track and sound effects, mixed with witty inter-titles to create an intermediary experience that was surprisingly different from so many early talkies I’ve seen. The objective and the technology were different: the disc was never intended to provide the dialogue, even though the actors are clearly working from a script and the disc was there to provide a bespoke musical accompaniment that was almost an end in itself.

The music is frenetic and the perfect match to some of the most energetic dancing you’ll see in a teen movie – there’s a fair amount of abandon in Miss Moore’s dancing and the practical purpose of the legendary bob is revealed amidst much head shaking: the girl can’t help it and every hair falls back into place.

It’s a simple film but technically so well made by director William A. Seiter with smooth camerawork immersing the watcher in the midst of the Charlestons and general dance-floor argy-bargy: think Wigan Casino on a particularly frenetic Friday and you might get close…

Moore about to cut rug!
There’s a very witty script – I wish I could remember some of the one-liners – and a proto-feminist defence of the right of women to dress as they like and to be independent: a Flappers’ Charter with Moore’s character defending her fight for the right to party. With thoroughly-modern logic she fights back at the suggestion she is as she looks: woman only dress as men want them too but they also do this willingly and, overwhelmingly, for themselves.

Sound and fury aside, this is a film in which Colleen Moore’s energy and incisiveness shine through. This is only my third Moore film and she grows on me more with each viewing – there’s a simple integrity to her characters and she clearly worked so hard to portray women who were perhaps, younger, sassier and more extrovert than a relatively humble Irish girl who liked making dolls houses…

Late night drunken drive home...
The consistency of her portrayal of Pert Kelly (see what they did there?) is so impressive and she has the very definition of a winning personality. Pert is a hard-working shop girl who dances most nights away and has a string of trophies attesting to her considerable skill in the cutting of rugs.

She’s chatted up by neo-spiv Jimmy (a marvellously greasy Louis Natheaux) but catches the eye not once but – she makes sure – several times of handsomely square-jawed Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton who, if you didn’t know went on to become Commissioner Gordon in 1960’s Gotham City…).  The two leave a drunken Jimmy to sleep it off and start to hit it off in a big way.

Unbeknownst to Pert, her new beau is the son of the man who owns the department store where she works (Edward Martindel) and is due to start work there the next day as Personnel Officer. The two stay up to 3AM and whilst Junior makes his office on time, Pert is a little late…

Called to the HR department to explain herself, Pert thinks she’s in the clear when she realises who the new boss is but the surprise appearance of his dad means he has to put on a tough guy act and threaten to sack her. It’s all a game as son then explains to father but the latter is so concerned at his choice of girlfriend that he has Pert fired anyway…

Misunderstanding follows as Petr almost stands up Jnr: is she “good enough” for him and, let’s be honest, is he good enough for her in the eyes of an audience who were clearly wound up enough to have a collective “word” in his shell-like…

Junior and Pert
There are twists and turns on the dance floor and off before we can reach a resolution and Moore makes the absolute most of the script at the top of her considerable game.

There’s also superb support from Hamilton who responds to Moore’s glittering emotions with an understated energy of his own. Bodil Rosing is also good as Ma Kelly who knows her daughter better than she thinks, as is John St. Polis’ Pa Kelly as he wonders at the suitability of this gift-giving rich boy... what does want in return?!

Flapper Queen Colleen.
We watched the early matinee and it felt like a power lunch, propelling us out into the grey autumn sunshine with a spring in our step and an almost un-resistible urge to dance the Charleston…

The Flapper Queen is back and long may she reign!