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A Virtuous Vamp (1919)

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A flirtatious young woman takes a job in a busy office, where her presence is terribly disruptive. None of the men in the office can concentrate on their jobs while her charms are on ... See full summary »

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Title: A Virtuous Vamp (1919)

A Virtuous Vamp (1919) on IMDb 6.1/10

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Belle Daube ...
Mrs. Armitage
Jack Kane ...
Edward Cecil Armitage
Conway Tearle ...
Jame Crowninshield
Jeanette Horton ...
Katherine Crowninshield
Margaret Linden ...
Wallace McCutcheon Jr. ...
Kirby
Ned Sparks ...
Mr. Bell
William Eville ...
Mr. Hicks
William Gaunt ...
Mr. Davis
...
Undetermined Role
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Storyline

A flirtatious young woman takes a job in a busy office, where her presence is terribly disruptive. None of the men in the office can concentrate on their jobs while her charms are on display. Of course, she sets her eye on the one man who seems oblivious to her. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Genres:

Comedy | Romance

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Release Date:

16 November 1919 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Bachelor  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Trivia

A largely complete copy of this film is held by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Although titled in two languages, neither is English. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Constance T and Conway T: vamp until ready.
16 April 2010 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

My thanks to Hugh Munro Neely of the Mary Pickford Institute and to NYC's Museum of Modern Art for enabling me to view MoMA's print of this silent movie. The foreign-release print's original English intertitles had been replaced with bilingual titles in Finnish and Danish. My very limited grasp of Finnish won't get me halfway to Helsinki, but I was able to follow most of the action and dialogue in Danish. For once, the European translations of a U.S. silent film have retained the characters' original names, although actor Conway Tearle is misspelt as 'Jearle'. The print appears to be otherwise complete. IMDb's credits list dancer Gilda Gray in the cast of this movie, but I never spotted her. I'm especially pleased that this movie survives, as it's based on 'The Bachelor' by Clyde Fitch, a major U.S. playwright of the 1890s who's now unfairly forgotten.

Story-tellers have always wavered between heroines who are virtuous 'good girls' and fun-loving seductive types (usually more interesting, but less apt to win audience approval). 'A Virtuous Vamp' manages to have it both ways by casting Constance Talmadge as an innocent who just somehow can't help flirting with men, but whose intentions remain virtuous. So that's sorted, then.

SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD. We begin just after the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. (This scene might explain the incorrect Gilda Gray credit: someone may be thinking of the movie 'Gilda', in which the title character sings about 'the Frisco quake'.) The once-wealthy Armitage family are in the ruins of their mansion. (The set representing their burnt-out manse is rather too picturesque to be plausible.) Happily playing in the rubble is wee five-year-old Gwendolyn Armitage, wearing the picture hat, necklace and high heels of an adult woman. She happily flirts with two firemen who (considering they've just put out a fire) are amazingly clean and well-rested, and who seem to have no other pressing business anywhere else in the entire city. The uncredited child actress is charming, yet I found this scene annoying and dishonest: the single biggest reason why so many people died in the 1906 disaster is because (due to municipal graft) the San Francisco fire department didn't have enough manpower and equipment to fight the blazes after the quake broke the city's gas mains. Yet these two smoke-eaters have nothing to do but frolic with a little girl. Don't let's even get into the fact that these men are clean-shaven in an era when firemen nearly always wore beards as a job requirement. (For reasons explained in my IMDb review of 'London Fire Brigade, Alarm'.)

Cut to New York in present-day 1919. Sweet Gwendolyn is now 18 years old, played by Constance Talmadge (who looks more like thirty). The former scioness is now trying to earn a living as working-girl Nellie Jones. She takes a position in the office of wealthy James Crowninshield, son of an old friend of Gwen/Nellie's mother.

But, gosh darn it, Nellie is so vivacious, she just can't help charming every man in sight. Nellie is assigned to the accounts department headed by old Mr Davis (played by someone named Willian Gaunt; no discernible relation to the popular British actor). Davis disapproves of attractive female employees, since they distract his male clerks. Lucky for Nellie that Davis is extremely myopic, peering at everything through Coke-bottle spectacles. There are two amusing POV shots of Nellie as seen by Davis, with Talmadge extremely out of focus. The clerks are young men in stiff celluloid collars: by the end of a workday, they all have stiff necks from craning to watch Nellie. When Davis finally gets a good squizz at Nellie, he wants her transferred out of the clerks' department.

Nellie next lands up as personal secretary to Mr Bell, played by Ned Sparks. In the sound era, Sparks distinguished himself as a character actor by contrasting a distinctive voice with a deadpan face and underplayed movements. In this silent movie, he makes up for the absent voice with some elaborate emotional reactions radically different from his later talkies-era demeanour.

Eventually, pretty Nellie ends up as secretary to the boss, handsome Crowninshield. Care to guess what happens?

For most of its length, 'A Virtuous Vamp' is an effective story, well-directed and well-acted by all involved (including Talmadge, who seldom impresses me). The biggest letdown is the set design: the brief exteriors and protracted interiors all look like movie sets instead of real places. Annoyingly, the finish is one of those too-cute clichés, though perhaps it was less of a cliché in 1919, the year when American women first got the vote. Crowninshield, the boss who's all business, orders stenographer Nellie Jones to take dictation of a letter. The letter is a marriage proposal from Crowninshield. Guess to whom it's addressed. I'll rate 'A Virtuous Vamp' as 7 out of 10.


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