Charming, fun and informative
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 12/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This double-feature DVD is very enjoyable as well as informative when it comes to the lifestyle and ways of thinking in the 1920s, brought out in both the feature film "The Clinging Vine" and the award-winning 1973 documentary, "The Age of Ballyhoo". Together, they transport the viewer back in time to the age when the world changed forever: automobiles, cinema and stars, jazz, the first Atlantic crossing by plane, and even women's liberation, as "The Clinging Vine" demonstrates with style and humour. In this one-hour light comedy produced by Cecil B DeMille, actress Leatrice Joy is totally convincing as the over-efficient career woman who looks, dresses and acts like a man, but is transformed into an elegant and lovely lady with a little bit of coaching in how to be `a clinging vine' - that is, a eyelash-batting female who drapes herself off men as she says "oh, DO go on!" and appears to be completely dependent on male strength and intelligence. But far from being insulting to the modern woman, I found this film to be more sophisticated and clever than it appears at first because the joke really is on the shallow-minded menfolk who fall for the batting eyes rather than a woman's intelligence and competence! In fact, the essence of the story is just as relevant to our modern day ways as it was in the mid 1920s, which just shows that when it comes to men and women, some things never change!
The same thought occurred to me when watching the excellent documentary "The Age of Ballyhoo" because most of the things that were introduced or established in that era of the 1920s, after the end of World War I in 1918, are still with us today. Running just under an hour, this fascinating documentary moves quickly through all the events and major changes the USA - and most of the world - underwent in a decade or more. It is crammed with exciting film footage and newsreels, and is accompanied by music and songs of the period and of course, narration by the legendary Gloria Swanson who adds a personal touch because she is telling the story of her own youth. Produced and directed by David Shepard, whom we can thank for a large part of outstanding silent film video releases over the years, "The Age of Ballyhoo" features many rare and special moments to surprise and delight most viewers. It is a general overview of life in the 1920s, with only a small segment devoted to cinema and stars, but with such variety there is never a dull second. The same can be said for "The Clinging Vine", especially when watched with the audio commentary by a film historian whose knowledge sheds even more insight into the mentality of men and women of the 1920s. All in all, a very pleasant and enjoyable ride down memory lane!
Fun documentary, ultimately entertaining film
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 08/10/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although neither of the films on this disc are classics, they're both pretty fun. 'The Age of Ballyhoo,' narrated by Gloria Swanson, is a fun look back at the culture of the American 1920s. It covers such topics as the new popularity of automobiles, sports, aviation, clothing, Prohibition, and movie stars. It's not some in-depth scholarly look back at the decade and the historical, social, cultural, and political forces which shaped it in the years preceeding it (since no given decade just develops by itself, but rather has the stage set by things which happened beforehand), though it still conveys all of the important information succinctly.
I have mixed feelings about the feature attraction, 'The Clinging Vine.' The first time I watched it, I was really horrified, as a modern woman and a feminist, at what the message seemed to be, and how A.B. (Leatrice Joy, who really does look like a man in a skirt) completely changes herself so some man will like her. But after I watched it with the audio commentary, I saw the film in a bit of a different light. Though the play the film was based on was kind of dated even by 1926 standards, the message isn't as anti-feminist as I originally assumed. When her boss's wife gives her a makeover and lessons in how to flirt with men, it's actually making fun of men and how easily controlled they are by something as silly as batting eyebrowns, nonsense chatter, and insipid lines like, "Oh, do go on!" I still don't like the idea of A.B. making herself over so completely so Jimmie, the boss's grandson, will like her, after he just totally insulted her before even meeting her and not realising she was listening by the door, though.
I couldn't help but think that while it's normal to change some things about yourself, within reason, so that someone who already likes you will like you even more, before the relationship is solid enough that you can let yourself go a bit and not worry about ensuring his interest level, Jimmie is really only loving the person A.B. is pretending to be, not the person she really is. I can relate, from personal experience, to the feeling of suddenly realising that for a long time you were denying and repressing your sexuality and femininity, and found that since you didn't see yourself as a desirable woman, men wouldn't either. On that part of the story I have total sympathy for A.B., but as a modern woman, I just can't totally shake the feeling that she gave up too much of herself instead of striking a happy medium. Overall, though, it is ultimately an enjoyable light comedy, and it is clear throughout that A.B. never really gives up her brains and her ability to control the men around her, be it Jimmie, her boss, or her various co-workers. She just finds new ways to hold the power after her radical makeover, and the really interesting part of the film is how she manages to do that, retain her relationship and new image with Jimmie while still manages to use her brains to solve the various problems that come up in the course of the story."