|Index||3 reviews in total|
Colleen Moore was a major star of the silent screen. Here in
Twinkletoes she shows us why. In a career that ranged from slapstick
comedy to flappers to dramatic heroines, Moore was first and foremost
an actress. Here she plays a Cockney waif who aspires to be a dancer.
She grows up in the rough and tumble Limehouse district of London with
her dad (Tully Marshall) and has a crush on a local boxer (Kenneth
Harlan) but he is married to a harridan (Gladys Brockwell).
The film starts out with a street brawl between Brockwell and a woman who flirts with Harlan. Moore rushes to the scene and stops the riot by dancing and making people laugh and smile.
Later, at an amateur show run by sleazy manager (Warner Oland), Moore brings down the house with a busker dance followed by a ballet. Amazingly it is Moore doing those balletic moves ON POINT. Great stuff. There are a few melodramatic subplots that all lead to the expected conclusion.
Moore had become a superstar in 1923 with Flaming Youth, the film that defined the Jazz Age and the flapper. From then thru the early talkies Moore remained a star. Twinkletoes was a smash as were films like Ella Cinders and Lilac Time (with Gary Cooper). And she's excellent here as the girl who dreams of being a star.
Harlan is OK as the love interest. Marshall is splendidly seedy as the dad, but it's Gladys Brockwell who really scores as the treacherous Cissie. Brockwell would also steal the show in the first all-talking film, Lights of New York, which starred Helene Costello and Cullen Landis. Willie Fung is one of the Chinese fans, and Ned Sparks co-stars but I never spotted him. Lucien Littlefield plays Hank.
Although this film was not the light comedy I expected, I was still drawn into the story by the great Colleen Moore.
An example of an improbable genre, this silent musical, released for
Christmas 1926, makes an agreeable light entertainment, at least until it
collapses into a subplot of virginity threatened. As a vehicle for Colleen
Moore, who personified flaming youth in a series of jazz-age comedies, it
illustrates how this star's image sidestepped the sexual challenge of
contemporaries like Clara Bow and Joan Crawford.
Here, in a project that she guided herself, she goes blonde as an aspiring dancer, devoted to her dear old Dad, tempted by an unhappily married local boxer, but targeted by a leering seducer. Throughout this plot, set in Cockney London, her working-class heroine remains good-hearted, relentlessly perky, yet fundamentally innocent. She leaps into a street melee, climbs ladders, rescues a child from a beating, and slugs a disbeliever in her stardom. (Throughout four dance numbers, Moore neither disgraces nor distinguishes herself.)
Director Charles Brabin works up some flavorful Limehouse atmosphere, staging a spirited street brawl for the opening. However, only one sequence- a romantic scene on a stairway when Moore realizes that she loves the boxer -reveals distinctive cinematic choices. The visual sophistication seen in Brabin's MASK OF FU MANCHU in 1932 is absent, apart from some prism shots to express a state of tipsiness.
Among the routinely sentimental figures, Gladys Brockwell hits a strikingly realistic note as the hero's snarling drunken wife, but the character of "Roseleaf", the producer who threatens Moore's virtue, has an anti-semitic subtext that seems borderline offensive (Warner Oland would redeem his role the next year by playing Al Jolson's rabbi father in THE JAZZ SINGER).
In the seedy Limehouse district of London, Colleen Moore (as
Twinkletoes) rushes to bust up a major street brawl, with her comedic
ballet routine. Ms. Moore's charming dance, with musical assist from
father Tully Marshall (as Dad Minasi), soothes the savagery.
Ironically, Moore falls in love with the man in the center of the
conflict, professional boxer Kenneth Harlan (as Chuck Lightfoot). Mr.
Harlan is also enchanted with Moore; however, he is already married to
boozy, shrewish Gladys Brockwell (as Cissie).
This film was released in late 1926, around the time Colleen Moore was determined to be the year's #1 US Box Office Star, by Quigley Publications (currently recognized as the industry standard). So, Moore is justified in production and characterization resembling Lillian Gish or Mary Pickford; she had reached a equalizing level. "Twinkletoes" is an enjoyable feature, although it falls short of the poetic standard it is so obviously straining to achieve.
****** Twinkletoes (11/28/26) Charles Brabin ~ Colleen Moore, Kenneth Harlan, Tully Marshall, Gladys Brockwell
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