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Norma Besant, daughter of a Southern doctor, is an incorrigible flirt and has many boys on her string. She begins to favor Michael Jeffrey, who, shiftless and hot-tempered but fundamentally honorable, is warned off by her father. When Michael returns after a long absence, the pair are innocently compromised, and Dr. Besant's old-South paternal rage brings tragedy. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Don't dismiss Coquette; plenty of others seemed to copy it
In watching Croquette for the first time, I had a handful of things to overcome. One was finally hearing Mary Pickford's voice only to hear it as a lilting southern drawl. Of course the inherent sound and static staging problems of a very early "talkie" was another. The third was that the plot and performance seemed quite clichéd. At least it did until it dawned on me that this was only because OTHERS came along LATER and followed (intentionally or not) Croquette's lead.
Overall, I found Croquette a solid film and Pickford's performance quite good, although it took me a while to accept the accent. I also had to remind myself that although Bette Davis (Jezebel, 1938), Vivien Leigh (GWTW, 1939) and half a dozen others portrayed scheming southern belles in a very, very similar manner, it was Pickford's performance that set the tone for all future southern potboilers.
Did Pickford deserve her Oscar? Well, Davis and Leigh won them for drawling their way into and out of romantic jams in similar vehicles (albeit Leigh in a much more elaborate one). I would put Pickford's performance at least on par with Davis' and probably on par with Leigh's, if one takes the newness of the sound medium into account.
The only real weakness I found was William Janney's hammy portrayal of Pickford's little brother. It was Janney's first film role, at age 21, and not a particularly auspicious debut. The rest of the cast was solid enough, including a very young Johnny Mack Brown, who had not yet found his cowboy persona. True, Matt Moore was a bit flimsy as Stanley, but his underplaying fit the wimpy role.
Pickford was clearly the driving force and she drove well. I have no doubt she could have been a serious sound actress, had her public been able to accept her in adult (and, inevitably, as time went on, middle-aged) roles. The lady could act.
The film is at least a 6 by today's standards and probably an 8 when all of the conditions under which it was filmed are taken into account. I'll split the difference and call it a "7." While I will probably continue to envision Mary Pickford as the pre-teen or early-teen ragamuffin of silent film days, I am very glad to have a copy of her best "talkie." Don't dismiss her Oscar, either. Plenty of others during the next 20 years seemed to think her performance was worth emulating!
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