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Why be good, indeed.
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From the transitional year of 1929, the beginnings of sound and the slow decay of silent films, comes this fun, slightly raunchy comedy.

Pert Kelly (Colleen Moore) is just another cool gal having a night on the town when she meets a dashing young man. Both are smitten, so they promise to meet each other the next night. But with morning comes reality, Pert works at a department store, and her new boss is the young man, Winthrop Peabody Jr (Neil Hamilton), she met last night. He’s no longer fun; a stuffed shirt, son of the owner, who’s now working in personnel.

A series of comic misunderstandings, and the inevitable answer to the film’s question, make this a newly discovered classic silent film.

Colleen Moore’s portrayal of Pert is the epitome of the classic flapper: the bob, the dresses, and lest we forget, the dancing and parties are central to the story, and just downright fun.

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A pre-stardom Jean Harlow can be seen very briefly as a background character at the 70-minute mark.


Tropes:

  • But Liquor Is Quicker: "Well mama—now that I'm tea'd up—let's neck."
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Pa Kelly has serious issues with Pert going out to parties and wearing the outfits she has. She quickly rebuttals with this:
    Pert Kelly: Pop, listen to me. This is 1929—not 1899—I contribute as much money to this house as you do—and as long as I think it is harmless, I’m going to wear what I like, and do what I like!
  • Chick Magnet: Winthrop Jr definitely is, making his first day on the job harder with all those salesgirls giving him the eye.
  • Contrived Coincidence: New York City isn't a small town but Winthrop meets at a nightclub a girl that turns out to work at his business.
  • Dance Sensation: Pert wins a dance contest doing The Charleston.
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  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Inverted, since it’s Winthrop bringing Pert, a girl with a dubious reputation, but it’s his father that disapproves of her. Peabody Sr goes through great lengths to make sure his son is not taken for a ride. He fires poor Pert, the best salesgirl they have. His suspicions are summed up well in this speech:
    Winthrop Peabody Sr: Son, I don’t hold for caste distinction—it’s as right for you to marry a girl who works for a living—as anyone else—From what you've seen of her, do you believe she’s—a—good girl?
  • Discreet Drink Disposal: Jimmy, Pert's rather gross date, is making a concerted effort to get her drunk so he can have sex with her. She covers the mouth of the flask with her thumb when tipping it back.
  • Double Standard: Near the end of the film, Pert gives a damning speech about the double standards held against women. Dialogue cards read:
    Pert Kelly: Who is it demands the kissing, the spooning—-who but you—-you men—-Nowadays? I suppose you'd like me if I wore long skirts and mittens and sat home knitting socks? Yes you would! You men! You insist on a girl being what you want – and then you bawl her for being it! Listen! I’m a good girl. And what I do and what I wear—-is because you fool men demand it!
  • Establishing Character Moment: A title introduces Pert as "an effervescent American girl", which neatly describes Colleen Moore's whole career. The film then cuts to Pert dancing in, and winning, a Charleston contest. She's established as a fun-loving party girl.
  • Family Business: Winthrop Peabody Sr is the owner of a department store, and his son has been newly made head of personnel.
  • The Flapper: Pert Kelly, as mentioned above, is the total embodiment of the modern, sophisticated woman. She makes her own money, goes out partying late into the night, and flirts, conquers, and enchants the men around her.
  • Good All Along: Peabody Jr’s dad seemed skeptical that a party girl like Pert could be serious marriage material for his son. He’s soon proven wrong with the film's conclusion.
  • Happily Ever After: Pert and Winthrop get married.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "One night you make love to me—and the next day you fire me!" Pert's talking about their date.
  • Match Cut: From Pert lying in bed staring pensively up at the ceiling, to Winthrop Sr. in a similar position on the couch. From Pert holding a dress up to evaluate it, to Pert in the same position but now wearing the dress.
  • Ms. Fanservice: We see Pert in her bra while her mother helps her undress!
  • Nice Hat: In the age of cloche hats, there is plenty of gorgeous hats to go around.
  • No-Tell Motel: Winthrop takes Pert to one as a test of her virtue.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: All of Pert’s outfits are cute, and have the jazz age appropriate additions of fringe and ruffles.
  • Plucky Office Girl: Pert is the best salesgirl in her department, and is fairly popular with her coworkers.
  • Punny Name: The motel that Winthrop takes Pert to is called the "Stumble Inn".
  • Questioning Title?: Why be good? To get a husband, of course!
  • The Roaring '20s
  • Romantic False Lead:The smooth talking, greasy-haired Jimmy.
  • Secret Test of Character: Winthrop takes Pert to a No-Tell Motel in order to test whether or not she's too slutty. When she refuses to have sex with him, she passes.
  • Silent Movie: Why Be Good was very much in the transitional period between silent and talking films since its soundtrack includes sound effects. For example, there’s car horns, background noise, and a synchronized musical soundtrack that has all the popular tunes of the 1920s. These tunes include: "I'm Thirsty for Kisses and Hungry for Love," "If You Want the Rainbow, You Must Have the Rain," "Tall, Dark and Handsome," "Flapperette," "Changes," "Le Chant des Boulevards" and "That's Her Now".
  • Tagline: "She won him with her pep - but almost lost him with her rep."
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Winthrop has all the girls falling over for him.
  • The Tease: With her vivacious spirit, and her knowing smile, Pert can definitely be a considered a top-teaser.
  • '20s Bob Haircut: Colleen Moore, along with her contemporary, Louise Brooks, made this hairstyle very popular.
  • The Vamp: The vamps. At the department store, the salesgirls who are late and wind up at personnel—which is now Winthrop Jr’s new job—try to dissuade him from writing them up by playing some coy maneuvers. But Winthrop is Not Distracted by the Sexy.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Hm. Fiery, spirited flapper. Rich young man takes an interest in her. Rich young man turns out to be an executive at her work. A misunderstanding causes the man to question the woman's virtue, causing her to lose her job and interrupting their romance. We're talking about Clara Bow's 1927 film It, right?
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