Our Dancing Daughters (Vírgenes modernas, USA, 1928), directed by Harry Beaumont, featuring Joan Crawford and Anita Page. (97 minutes)
Presentation: Luciano Berriatúa
Our Dancing Daughters, directed by Harry Beaumont, launched the actress Joan Crawford to stardom when sound cinema was beginning to emerge. In elegant environments of the Age of Jazz it develops the attractive frivolity of the youth, serious dancers in opposition to the personal penalties and failures, on the eve of the Great Depression's outbreak .
Our Dancing Daughters was directed by Henry Beaumont, a director who has not become a recognized master in the history of cinema, but who was a good professional that got to direct almost a hundred movies between 1914 and 1948. On of them, in 1929, The Broadway Melody won an Oscar to best film. Our Dancing Daughters was premiered a year earlier and also has many elements of musical movies, although it is a silent film. Silent, but accompanied by a recorded musical soundtrack, a common practice between 1927 and 1928, the years of transition from silent film to sound film. Music and dance are very present in this movie, and the own title of the movie refers to leading role of dance.
For the main role he selected Joan Crawford who had arrived as a dancer to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios a few years before, after wining a dance contest. In 1928 and being 23 years old, she had already starred in more than a dozen films, including the great The Unknown (1927) with Lon Chaney.
Beaumont was a good actress director, and both Joan Crawford and Anita Page stand out from their male counterparts, blurred and not very brilliantly played by John Mack Brown, a sportsman recycled into movie star, and Nils Asther, a good looking half Dane half Swede who was unable to go beyond the old-style exaggerations of silent films.
Crawford's big eyes are the key of her performance. Her stares say everything and provide her with a direct and natural contact with the audience, facilitating complicity with it, and transforming her into a cinematographic creature who seems to live the roles instead of just playing them. Her character is a girl firm and happy, but also a naive victim, very different from the harsh and competitive, even slightly masculine, characters she plays in her future films like Dancing Lady or Johnny Guitar.
Anita Page, sweeter and more feminine, was also a great actress that achieved success at the early age of 18 thanks to this film, although she decided to retire just a few years later when she was only 23, regardless of her increasing fame and success, due to the sexual harassment she suffered from producer Irving Thalberg, who was married to Norma Shearer since 1927.
The success of Our Dancing Daughters spawned Our Modern Maidens the following year, a similar product of the same scriptwriter and with Joan Crawford and Anita Page starring, but this time with other male performers and under the direction of Jack Conway, another good professional. The movie Our Modern Maidens has many interesting elements. For example, it is a luxury to contemplate the wonderful scenery of Cedric Gibbons, who would later become the artistic director of the most important musicals by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, from The Wizard of Oz to An American in Paris.
But above all, Our Modern Maidens is a movie previous to the Hays Code, and thus, previous to the fierce censorship imposed over US cinema between 1934 and 1969, which is what makes it most interesting. To those born along the last 20 or 30 years it can be difficult to understand a movie like this. They have been born in a world in which women can do the same work as men, can get divorced if they have married the wrong man, can act with certain freedom. Discovering that these minimal human rights have only been obtained in the last decades can result incredible.
But we will refer extensively to these contents and their focus in Our Dancing Daughters once the movie is presented on April 15th...
- Luciano Berriatúa
(Madrid, 1949) es historiador y director de cine. Colabora con la Filmoteca Española dirigiendo restauraciones de cine mudo español y alemán. Profesor asociado en la Universidad París 8 y profesor de guión en la Escuela de Cinematografía y del Audiovisual de Madrid (ECA). Desde 1994 realiza el Catálogo del Cine Español del Instituto de Cinematografía y de las Artes Visuales (ICAA). Autor de largometrajes (El lado oscuro, 2002), cortometrajes (La dama del bosque, 1989; Los gatos de Madrid (dibujos animados), 2005 y, como realizador-director de TVE, la serie Murnau, el lenguaje de las sombras (1997). Ha publicado los libros Las técnicas de dirección de F. W. Murnau (1990) y Los proverbios chinos de F. W. Murnau (1992). En los últimos años se ha especializado en cine digital.