Sunday, September 13, 2015

Silent Sundays: Smouldering Fires (1925)

“What is your aim in life—to be a business woman or a chorus girl?”

            There has always been an issue with ageism in Hollywood for women. I wish it was not such an issue today because it is unfortunate that actresses go through it in this modern world. But think about how much worse it was for actresses in early Hollywood. The men could go on and on playing the lead roles with much younger actresses playing their romantic interest while the women were eventually resigned to playing mothers or old maids.
            Another issue that bothers me about Old and modern Hollywood is how a woman had/has to be tamed. She can be a wonderful boss ass bitch handling a business or household with an iron fist but once she meets a nice man and falls in love with him it is the man’s job to bring her down quite a few notches so he can be the domineering one. Didn’t you realize it is not right for a woman to be a boss ass, successful bitch when she is in love? A man’s fragile ego cannot handle that. Well I say screw that and God bless that I was not alive in the early half of the twentieth century!
            My rant does have a bit to do with the silent film Smouldering Fires I promise.
            Jane Vale (Pauline Frederick) is the no nonsense head of her father’s clothing factory. No one ever says no to her every whim. The one person who does say no and other things right in front of Jane is a young man who is an inspector in the factory named Robert Elliot. Robert had suggested some ideas to make the factory more efficient but Jane struck those down. When he hears that his suggestions were not taken, he storms up to the office to complain. Robert is furious and starts saying things about Jane. He has no idea who Jane is so he has no idea that she is standing right behind him. Jane’s right hand man pulls out a piece of paper for payroll to stop payments for Robert since he will be fired. Jane goes to sign it but she stops herself. She tells her right hand man to take Robert’s suggestion and to give him a raise.
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            Soon Jane and Robert fall in love. Their romance is not an office or factory secret. Robert has been given an office right next to Jane’s. When he catches one of the guys in the factory saying something nasty about Jane Robert punches him. Jane comes up to see what is going on but she does not make herself known. She hears Robert say that no one is to say anything about her especially because she will be his wife someday.
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            Jane and Robert are engaged to be married. For the first time in a very long time Jane is very happy. Her younger sister Dorothy comes home from college. She can even see that Jane has changed for the best. Dorothy can also see that having Robert around can only lead to disaster. She does not even want to be friends with him at first.
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            If you could not guess, Dorothy and Robert become close and they fall in love. Robert wants to break his engagement to Jane but it is just not possible. Dorothy tries to tell her sister about what is happening and cannot because of how happy Jane is.
            Robert and Jane get married and he is a good husband to her. Jane eventually sees that Robert is not in love with her when they have a bunch of his and Dorothy’s friends over for a party. All the young people there make her a bit uncomfortable. After the party Jane can hear Dorothy crying. When she asks her younger sister about being in love with someone Dorothy does not reply. It is not long before Jane realizes that her sister and husband are in love and that she realizes it is because they are both close in age.
            On Dorothy’s birthday Jane finally has enough. She yells out that she wants a divorce but it is not because of Robert’s cheating. She proclaims and pretends she wants a divorce because she never loved him.
            There were so many jabs at Jane’s older age in Smouldering Fires. I felt really bad. Maybe I felt bad because I am getting older. I am currently in a fandom where the majority of the fans of much younger than I am. I feel damn old! And since I work a part time job in a library I work with a lot of younger kids so again I feel old. I think I am becoming sensitive with my age as I push closer to thirty. Just think if I were an actress back in the twenties to the forties I would definitely not be the main attraction. I would most likely be playing the part of an annoying mother by now (although when Myrna Loy was twenty-nine she got the part of Nora Charles who was vivacious and sassy).
            Anyway, Smouldering Fires was alright. I got really bored of it as soon as Jane became a sap and fell in love. If, and only if, you are a fan of silent films Smouldering Fires is worth watching at least once. 
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