Cecil B. DeMille's 1926 production of The Clinging Vine is a recent rediscovery and perhaps the ultimate '20s gender-bender. Leatrice Joy plays “The President's Assistant - known as A.B. - who hired, wired and fired men - but had never kissed one." Based on the 1922 Broadway musical by Zelda Sears, the movie mocks male stereotypes of women while playfully exploring ideas of gender and romantic love in relation to female professionalism.
When expert businesswoman A.B. dutifully fires Jimmie Bancroft (Tom Moore), her employer's impractical grandson, Jimmie calls her a “flat-chested dried prune” and refuses to beg for his job back. Insulted, A.B. takes it upon herself to undergo an amazing but comedic transformation into a coy, "clinging vine” draped in flowing dresses. It is only after she adopts this ultra-feminine disguise that she is able to win Jimmie's heart, and help him turn his massive eggbeater invention into a successful business venture.
Though Sears’ original stage musical won over audiences with its boisterous feminist undertones, it is Leatrice Joy, with her masculine “bob” haircut and performative energy, who brings a radical flare to DeMille’s otherwise standard film adaptation. Through Joy, the movie ends up treating gender as a type of charade, with masculinity undercutting feminity and vice versa. This is perfectly illustrated when Jimmie tells the feminine A.B. that she's wonderful, and A.B, following the advice of his old-fashioned grandma, bats her eyelashes and says, “Oh, do go on!"
The Clinging Vine is digitally mastered from a 35mm master positive taken from the original camera negative. The digitally recorded score incorporates elements of the 1922 stage musical on which this movie is based. It is compiled and performed by Frederick Hodges, classically trained master of the syncopated piano, who has appeared around the world on stage, television and radio, and has made numerous solo and band recordings. Film historian Heather Addison, an assistant professor at Western Michigan University, has written and recorded an optional second-track commentary, which illuminates The Clinging Vine in the context of its time.
The Age of Ballyhoo (1973) Gloria Swanson, legendary star of the silent screen, narrates The Age of Ballyhoo, which is enriched with her own colorful memories, film clips and photographs. Winner of two film festival Gold Medals, two Silver Medals, and three Emmys- from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, this 1973 documentary is directed by the late David Shepard and assembled from rare, authentic souvenirs of the period: songs, graphics, newsreels and movies. Among them are scenes of Swanson in Manhandled and The Love of Sunya, the sound newsreel of Lindbergh's take-off for Paris, and sound footage of the original 1927 production of Show Boat and of blues legend Bessie Smith!
The Age of Ballyhoo is digitally mastered from the original film negative.