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|Index||11 reviews in total|
You can't go wrong with Clara Bow, but if you're expecting a movie on the
order of her later work prepare to be disappointed. I was entertained by
this film, but some of the moments that made me laugh were probably not
Donald Keith plays Hugh Carver, a high school athletic star who is going off to college. Before he leaves home, his mother (Mary Alden) tells his father (Henry Walthall, best known as the Little Colonel in "Birth of a Nation), to discuss with him "the things he should know." As his father explains sex to him, Hugh looks bewildered and shocked.
Upon arriving at Prescott College, Hugh initially learns that higher education consists of harmless hijinks. His roomie, Carl Peters, is quite the ladies man and party animal. Hugh dismisses talk of such things, saying "my athletics are fun enough for me."
We all know that can't last, and sure enough, while invading a womens house during his freshman hazing, Hugh meets Cynthia Day (Bow), the "real hotsy-totsy." Hugh ends up dancing with Bow, who is not so much dancing as having sex with her clothes on.
That's the start on Hugh's road to ruin, as he returns to his dorm and is apparently so inflamed by hormones that he decides to take up smoking. So much for being a big track star. Sure enough, he loses his first race, estranging him from his father.
Hugh doesn't care. He's deep into the party scene by this time, dating Bow mostly. This causes a fight between Hugh and Carl, destroying their relationship. Eventually Bow breaks up with Hugh, not wanting to completely destroy his innocence.
This puts him back on the right track, and he makes it to his senior year where the movie resolves itself predictably.
"The Plastic Age" comes on a 2 film DVD with "The Show-Off," another silent comedy that has Louise Brooks in a backup role. Bow and Brooks were destined for better things, but the DVD offers an interesting glimpse at the early work of two women who, along with Colleeen Moore, defined the flapper era. The two actresses were very different; Bow's style was barely contained animal sexuality, while Brooks was more elegant and graceful.
Silent fans will enjoy these second-tier movies, but to see the actresses at their peak, Bow's "Wings" or "It" and Brook's "Diary of a Lost Girl" are far better films.
When I ordered this movie, I really wasn't expecting a whole lot after
reading all of the tepid reviews it received here. However, having seen
it, I do think that it is a fine little film, with lots of funny and
cute moments within that make it a really good watch.
If you want to see a Clara Bow movie, you'd probably fare better with her trademark film, "It", as she is not as present in "The Plastic Age". However, she makes the most of her on screen time, and I was really taken with her character. She is undoubtedly one of the most underrated actresses of all time, and also one of the most lovable.
I would definitely watch this movie again, because it was never boring and never slow. Nothing about it was particularly astounding or brilliant, but who says that every film has to be controversial and ground-breaking? There have to be a few simple, fun films out there to balance everything out! By the way, for those of you who were wondering about Clark Gable's appearance in the film, I can tell you where to look. My sister and I are HUGE Gable fans, and we'd recognize him from a thousand miles away with a bag over his head. He is in the following scenes:
-In the locker room scene, he makes his first appearance, which is pretty obvious, as he is sitting on a bench and is very well greased. Guffaw.
-In that same scene, when the coach comes in to talk to them, you can see Clark over the coach's shoulder, without his shirt on, about to get into the shower. He has an intense farmer's tan, by the way, and he reacts really cutely to everything the coach was saying. Good job, Clark.
-In that same scene again, when the coach is giving that big motivational speech, the camera cuts to two men smiling, and the one on the left with the rouge all over his face is our Clark.
-When Clara and Donald go for their moonlight walk, and a woman's shoe falls out of the tree, that is Clark up there holding the girl in his arms. I thought that was a pretty cute scene, because he got to talk! Of course, we didn't hear it, but reading his lips, he turns to the girl and says: "Is this yours?" Brilliant!
-When Donald hurts his ankle at tryouts, two men come to help him off the field. Clark is the one on the right.
-And finally, at the big game at the end, Clark is the man wearing the helmet, who is sitting next to Donald, and then Gilbert, on the left. He even gets all excited during the last few minutes of the game, and starts bouncing around and cheering.
There, that got that straight. For those scenes alone, this movie is worth getting for all of you Clark Gable fanatics.
This pleasant campus romantic comedy has aged pretty well, since its main
characters and basic situations could almost be drawn from the present.
It's quite watchable, has a couple of very funny moments, and the mostly
good-natured story works pretty well.
Donald Keith and Clara Bow are likable and believable as the two leads, although Keith and his character are somewhat one-dimensional - Bow gets less screen time but is more memorable. The supporting cast are all pretty good, and represent familiar characters - the protective parents, the concerned coach, and fellow students of various types. The story centers on Keith's character, an athletic star who falls in love with Cynthia (Bow) but soon finds that he cannot have everything at once. To a large degree it represents some of the kinds of decisions faced in any era by those of college age (or what the film calls the "Plastic Age"). All of the characters are presented sympathetically, which gives it a pleasant tone throughout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not what you'd think with a title like "The Plastic Age": rather than
being about the synthetic nature of contemporary life in the 20s,
'plastic' here means 'malleable' youth-- especially as they leave home
for Life in the Big College. In this case, an idealistic young athlete
is molded away from 'decency and sobriety' by a 'fast' woman--the story
may even have been a cliché by 1925.
What makes the film worth seeing is that the woman, Cynthia Day, the queen of a sorority house, is played by Clara Bow who is sensually animated, sexy and beautiful. This was before her flapper defining turn as the 'It' girl in 'It' (1927); but she proves her worth as an actress here after she decides to break it off with her true love, Hugh Carter (Donald Keith), to stop corrupting his future. While she still pines for him, she forces herself to reject him. Betty Boop is clearly patterned after her, and with good reason. She is hot! We get a major conflict between Hugh and his roommate, played by a young Gilbert Roland, who, while born in Mexico as Luis Alonso, successfully made the transition to sound films and TV, even appearing as the Cisco Kid in six films (1946-1947).
Other than the above, not much of this film goes beyond the clichéd college hi-jinks film. So I can only give it a 6. The funniest college athelete hi-jinks film, of course, is Buster Keaton's 'College' (1927), the last thirty seconds of which is so mind boggling it was stolen by John Boorman and used as the ending of his 'Zardoz' (1974)!
NOTE: I saw 'The Plastic Age' on a 1999 Image Entertainment DVD, which has a fantastically clear and sharp print (with some night time scenes in blue), and a wonderful soundtrack of twenties sounding music which also includes real twenties hits such as "Stumbling," "All Alone," "Who" and "The Sheik of Araby." Also on the disk is 'The Show Off,' (1925) which turns out to be a much better film!
All those bright, insipid, and embarrassingly satisfying college films of the eighties (and for a brief time in the sixties) owe a great deal to "The Plastic Age." Remember when the nerd was caught in his underwear on the steps of campus in "Revenge of the Nerds?" Donald Keith's suitcase opens unexpectedly while entering his dormitory, spilling long johns at once mocked by surrounding students. Clara Bow sparkles as the college "fast girl," whose desirable qualities causes a rift between Keith and his roommate. The great Henry B. Walthal plays Keith's father, a typically rigid rich man that may have been the unseen ass that spawned Emilio Estevez in "The Breakfast Club." Modern day movie fans will find the remarkable similarities amusing, but those not keen on the silents will not be won over by this mostly flaccid, formulic comedy. For those of us obsessed with the "jazz age," however, simply experiencing the thrill of Clara Bow's bee-stung lips and unearthly eyes will make a viewing worthwhile. See if you can spot Clark Gable in one of his first on screen appearances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the more true-to-life college films of the early film era. I can say, as a 40 year college teacher, that some it it still rings true. Tensions in the relationships between the hero and others are real. The father who rejects the son who does not live up to his hopes, while the anxious nurturing mother is torn between them. The rivalry between the hero athlete and his roommate/competitor in football and in dating, which culminates in true meanness. His diversion by the campus flirt, and the evolution of their more serious and mixed feelings. Of course, the last fifteen minutes or so provide the happy ending: he scores the winning touchdown, the couple drive off together; yet even after he and his roomie forgive,forget and hug his rival shows a final attitude of resentment. It is easy to see why viewers rate this one high. By the way, don't expect to get a very good look at Clark Gable; you'll probably miss him altogether unless you re-run the lcoker room sequence. (And I'm not sure I really spotted the right man.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
College was a magical subject for satire in the 1920s and interesting
to everyone who attended the movies. Going to college was only for the
lucky few, people who attended were to be envied and were ripe for
lampooning. So most of the books and films were about students who
didn't study, wore raccoon coats and drank bootleg booze. Percy Marks
was a Dartmouth professor and popular novelist who wrote about his
students - the flappers who worshipped "jazz" and debated whether to
"go the limit". His "The Plastic Age"" had all the necessary
ingredients - fast living students, a football finale and Clara Bow as
"hotsy totsy" Cynthia Day. Ben Schulberg was convinced that a filming
of this popular best seller would establish his small Preferred
Pictures and it was given a bigger budget and better director (Wesley
Ruggles) than any previous Preferred production - and it certainly put
it above any other silent independent productions that I have seen.
Clara Bow, Donald Keith and Gilbert Roland were barely 20 and Bow had
an immediate impact. Promoted as "the hottest jazz baby in films" one
reviewer gushed "she has eyes that would drag any youngster away from
Eager Hugh Carver (Keith) is on his way to college, full of hopes and dreams - but not his long underwear which his mother is in the middle of packing!! His room-mate is Carl Peters (Roland) - a real "romeo" who's current thrill of the moment is "hotsy totsy" Cynthia Day. Hugh meets Cynthia during a "freshman hazing" when, dressed in nightshirts, they are forced to crash a girl's dormitory. He is then introduced to "necking", cigarettes, drinking, dances etc by flirty Cynthia who is still very keen to keep friendly with Carl. Wouldn't you know it, Hugh still thinks he can win the big race but ends up coming last and his father is crushed to read comments about his being "out of condition". They see first hand what high living has done to him and his father banishes him from their sight until Hugh can win back his parent's respect.
He tries his best, until Cynthia lures him to "The Log Cabin" unfortunately on the night it is to be raided. Carl is there also, trying to forget, they get into a fight but by the quick actions of Hugh, who risks expulsion, he drags the groggy Carl away from the searching police. Cynthia also gives him some bad news - she wants him to stay as fresh and decent as he is and feels he will change if he continues to hang around her "fast" set.
Clara Bow's acting really sets her and the movie apart, the emotion and "real tears" give Cynthia an added dimension and makes the viewer really pull for her as well as the hapless Hugh.
In typical college movie tradition Hugh is concussed during the big game but still struggles on securing a victory for his father's Alma Mater and earning Carl's admiration (strangely, even after being rescued by Hugh he still bears his chum a grudge, trying with all his might to make him miss the team call up!!) In a funny sweet finale Hugh and Cynthia's reconciliation has them falling off their bench!!
Among the solid cast is Henry B. Walthall, earlier of D.W. Griffith's stock company and Mary Alden (often Walthall's co-star in the early days) - they both bring quiet dignity to the parents. Clark Gable can be glimpsed as a necking athlete, David Butler (the coach) soon took up directing and guided Shirley Temple through some of her better features. Churchill Ross as a bespectacled student soon to play almost the same part in Universal's "The Collegian" series and beautiful Gwen Lee as a cool blonde who tries to make Carl forget Cynthia.
A rung or two above the average rah rah story!!
This is one of a very long string of college athletics films made in
the 1920s. They all had a lot in common: a gifted athlete who falls on
his face due to either their ego or carousing, eventual maturation and
redemption AND none of the students ever seem to go to classes! It
seems in these films the number one priority is the team--and in most
cases, like this one, it's the football team. And, of course, in this
film it all boils down to "the big game" at the end of the movie. So
this film is pure formula--through and through.
However, despite this, the film is worth watching for many reasons. First, unlike similar films like BROWN OF HARVARD, the hero never quite sinks to the same depths--so it seems a bit less clichéd. Also, it's a fascinating film for who's in it. While not yet stars, Clara Bow co-stars as the, what else, "party girl with a heart of gold" and Clark Gable is in a tiny part as one of the athletes. You'll really have to look closely to see him--as he's very young and thin and not at all the manly "he-man" he later was seen to be! Just look for the trademark ears--they're big enough it's hard to miss! So the overall verdict is that this is a lovely but very formulaic college film. If you've seen a bunch of 'em, then it's pretty skip-able unless you are dying to see Gable or Bow in early roles.
Plastic Age, The (1925)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Even by 1925 standards this is a film we've seen countless times before. A smart, athletic young man (Donald Keith) goes to college where he falls victim to a vixen (Clara Bow) who soon has him smoking, staying out late and failing classes. As I said, we've seen this type of film countless times so this one here really doesn't offer anything new. The film is fairly routine and predictable without many laughs or drama. What sets this film apart from others are the very good performances by the two leads who have wonderful chemistry together. Bow steals the show as the sexy party girl. Henry B. Walthall plays the boy's father. The unknown Clark Gable is featured in several scenes as an athlete.
Cute track star and all-around nice guy Donald Keith (as Hugh Carver)
begins his freshman year at Prescott College hoping to concentrate on
both studying and a football career. During his hazing, he meets
"hotsy-totsy" co-ed Clara Bow (as Cynthia Day), and the two are
smitten. But, Bow is supposed to be dating Mr. Keith's instant best
friend, roommate, and lady-killer Gilbert Roland (as Carl Peters). Mr.
Roland is furious. Soon, clean-cut Keith is smoking cigarettes and
partying to all hours of the night. His grades plummet, and he loses
the "Big Race" for Prescott. Keith's Prescott alumni father Henry B.
Walthall (as Henry Carver) is furious. Can Keith recover his senses, or
will he wind up a family disgrace?
A title card explains, "To the Plastic Age of Youth, the first long pair of pants is second only to - the thrill of going to college." The balance of studying and partying is a timeless challenge, apparently. The students of Prescott College are likable, but not believable. Why can't Keith be successful, and maintain a relationship with Bow? What is Bow studying for? Why is Roland so upset when he has already moved on to his next conquest? And, so on. It ends up as a average college youth film, with everything depending on a reformed Keith winning the end game for the team. Roland, in his first featured role, makes a notable impression. An even greener Clark Gable can be spotted showing his muscles in the locker room.
***** The Plastic Age (12/15/25) Wesley Ruggles ~ Donald Keith, Clara Bow, Gilbert Roland, Henry B. Walthall
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