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In "Orange Springs" (a small town in Florida), "Girls who hobnobbed at the soda fountain were talked about." Perhaps this is why beautiful young Olive Thomas (as Genevieve "Ginger" King) sips soda with boastful boyfriend Theodore Westman Jr. (as William "Bill" E. Forbes) on her estate. They must part company as Ms. Thomas is sent to a boarding school in a snowy town near New York. Coincidently, Mr. Westman has enrolled in a military academy next to the girls' boarding school. If you've seen movies like this, you already know all-girl schools and orphanages are often built next to all-male institutions.
Thomas makes friends easily, including moth-like Katherine Johnson (as Hortense) and social butterfly Norma Shearer (as an extra with a lot of screen time). The young women like to watch men. Their favorite is mysterious and romantic Wm. P. Carlton Jr. (as Richard Channing), an older guy who rides by on a horse regularly. Thomas and her friends fantasize the horseman is a professional gambler, actor or wife-beater. Thomas thinks she's falling in love with Mr. Carlton. She puts on fun clothes to become a "flapper" and is mistaken for a bad woman. The 1920s would be known for "flappers" like Colleen Moore and Clara Bow.
"The Flapper" was written by Frances Marion, who was then writing scenarios for Mary Pickford. This film may have, in some level of development, been considered a Pickford vehicle; and, it's easy to imagine her in the lead. For whatever reasons, Thomas got the assignment. It was kept in the family, as Olive Thomas was then Mrs. Pickford (married to Jack Pickford, Mary's brother). The film is fairly routine for the time, but has been elevated due to appearing with the title "The Flapper". Thomas could be considered more a proto-type than a real flapper. Later, Cyndi Lauper (see "Girls Just Want to Have Fun") was more of a flapper.
One of the best things about watching Alan Crosland adeptly direct this film is that the picture is so well preserved. Apparently the beginning and ending title/credits are damaged or missing, but the bulk of the film looks very pleasing. It's also worth noting that Thomas, who is charming throughout, died in September 1920, the same week as Robert Harron; the young stars' shocking and mysterious deaths shook what were arguably the two biggest film families in Hollywood at the time (actress Mary Pickford and director D.W. Griffith). Young co-stars Theodore Westman Jr. and Bobby Connelly also died tragically young.
****** The Flapper (5/10/20) Alan Crosland ~ Olive Thomas, Theodore Westman Jr., William P. Carleton, Norma Shearer
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