Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Cinema Spotlight-The Plastic Age 1925
In yesterdays post I wrote about the gorgeous, sporty college fashions of the 1920s, and no where are they on better display then in the film I'm profiling in today's post, 1925's The Plastic Age with the incomparable Clara Bow.
The Plastic Age was based on a popular 1924 novel by Percy Marks a college English professor.
The novel purported to tell the scandalous "true" story of campus life. With descriptions of fraternity hazing, petting parties, and alcohol fueled shenanigans it quickly became a best seller, and a year later a film.
The hero of the film is the young Hugh Carver the sheltered only child of devoted parents and a prep school athletic star.
In the opening scene Hugh's parents are packing him up for college. As his devoted mother lovingly folds his long underwear
Hugh betrays a hint of his eagerness to fly from the nest:
Once at Prescott College the straight laced Hugh is roomed with Carl Peters, a lothario with a wall of beauty devoted to his conquests in his door room
The real "hotsy-totsy" of which is Cynthia Day, played by Clara Bow:
Cynthia has signed the bare shoulder on her photo: "To Carl: a real hot potato."
One glimpse of Cynthia and Hugh is ready to try life on the wild side. He decides to join Carl's fraternity and the hazing ritual that night involves sneaking into the home of Cynthia and the other college girls.
When Cynthia gets a look at Carl, wearing only a night shirt and a bowler hat, she clearly likes what she sees:
Soon Cynthia is giving Hugh a dancing lesson
and a love triangle between Cynthia, Hugh, and Carl has formed.
The next morning Hugh, along with the other fraternity boys, isn't up to his old athletic form. The exasperated coach says:
To which Carl's reply is a curt:
Hugh perhaps feels a bit bad about his falling grades and poor athletic showing but with Cynthia on his mind he is easily distracted from his studies and practice sessions.
Cynthia quickly introduces Carl to a number of other temptations
and soon Hugh's concerned parents notice his poor grades and losses on the football field.
Meanwhile Cynthia is falling in love which leads her to the painful realization that she is bad for Hugh. Convinced she is unworthy of him she tearfully ends the relationship
A newly single and serious Hugh regains his athletic prowess and leads his team to stunning victory on the football field.
Soon Hugh is a graduate, packed up and ready to leave Prescott with his parents. On his way to say goodbye to his buddies he sees a newly chastened Cynthia fighting of the advances of an unwelcome admirer.
Furious at the young man who tried to kiss her Hugh punches him, and Cynthia hearing of the attack realizes that Hugh still loves her and with the help of Carl
the two are joyfully re-united.
Romance bloomed behind the scenes of The Plastic Age as well, though sadly it didn't come to a happy end. Clara and Gilbert Roland, who played Carl Peters, where both young and overwhelmed by fame. Roland was Mexican and spoke little English and Clara was always socially insecure because of her decidedly blue collar back ground. They madly in love and were soon engaged
However, Clara's possessive father hated Roland because he was Mexican and a Catholic and did everything he could to put an end to the relationship. The pressures from her father and the attention from other men as her fame grew lead Clara to end the relationship though she remembered him fondly for the rest of her life.
The Plastic Age is a charming film that offers a glimpse into a world long gone.