Beauty's Worth (1922)
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The modern movie-goer will recognize this sort of movie from examples like THE PRINCESS DIARIES, in which gorgeous Ann Hathaway is made to look like all the other well-groomed rich people, and suddenly she is beautiful. Sandra Bullock has also appeared in a number of these, like TWO WEEKS NOTICE and MISS CONGENALITY. This is a well-produced example of the genre. The highlights are the scene of the Charades, with Miss Davies appearing in exotic costumes on a lavish set designed by Joseph Urban; and the scene in which Lydia Yeamans Titus, playing Miss Davies' Quaker servant, gets drunk.
I had the pleasure of seeing this movie on a DVD produced by Ed Lorusso with a fine organ score by Ben Model. Ed's earlier DVD productions of silent movies have been very successful and have shown up on Turner Classic Movies' Silent Sundays slot. Let us hope they have the sense to do the same for this one.
"Beauty's Worth" was just a Cinderella tale with Marion playing Prudence Cole, a plain Quaker girl brought up by her aunts who feel that the twentieth century is like a book of Satan!! Prudence's playboy cousin Henry (Hallam Cooley made an early career out of these lounge lizard type roles) comes to visit - and leaves behind a love struck girl but he has been only toying with her affections. Prudence visits Haven and charms everybody - especially struggling artist Cheyne Rovein (Forrest Stanley) who has his own opinion of the "society seals" she has been cast amongst. "What's a diamond doing amongst all those rhinestones"!!! He decides he wants them all to sit up and take notice of her so he designs some beautiful costumes for her part in a lavish charade performance. And wowee!! do they sit up!!
She is just spectacular in the three tableaux - the first has her with fluffy blonde hair and spangley dress as she dances reminiscent of her Follies days, the second gives her a chance at some comic pratfalls as she becomes a doll under a Christmas tree that all the other little boy dolls fall in love with. The last is the most wondrous of all when Prudence dressed as a goddess has all the natives at her feet. The sets were out of this world and were designed by Joseph Urban. Urban was employed in films exclusively by William Randolph Hearst and brought from his background as a prominent set designer of the Ziegfeld Follies the skill and know how to show Miss Davies in the setting and costumes that Hearst felt showcased her to advantage.
Henry, who according to one of the title's, judges women on how smart and up to date their dress is, falls for Prue hard but so do the entire male population of Haven and with an up to date wardrobe by Cheyne she is a sensation!! But she is also smart and sensible and there is no way she is going to accept Henry's definition of love - "love is when women wear smart clothes and look the height of fashion" as opposed to Cheyne's words from the heart.
Critics were not won over by the Davies' personality in 1922 and a particularly scathing review from The New York Times resented the money obviously lavished on the production to prop up a star whose career was being mismanaged. But Marion had the last laugh - she had real talent and had what it took to make it on her own regardless of Hearst's well meant bungles!!