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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: March 26th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1926

The Boob and Why Be Good? - Warner Archive Collection

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: David Krauss
Warner Archive releases two rare silent comedies starring two legendary actresses on a double-bill disc. An up-and-coming Joan Crawford adds some sparkle to The Boob, while the effervescent Colleen Moore ponders the always provocative question Why Be Good? Strong transfers and solid audio enhance both of these antique films, but the lack of supplements is disappointing. Recommended.

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
Length:
142
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.33:1
Audio Formats:
Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English
Special Features:
None
Release Date:
March 26th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

In the annals of silent cinema, The Boob and Why Be Good? are mere footnotes, yet their very survival almost a century after their respective premieres makes them precious artifacts of a bygone era. Both are trifles that lack any lasting impact, but they provide a window into the attitudes and mores of American society in the years and months before the Depression changed the country. They also feature two legendary actresses - one on the way up and one nearing retirement - who command attention and make these movies worth watching.

A young Joan Crawford is the drawing card for The Boob, which stars George K. Arthur as the naive, bumbling titular character, a country bumpkin named Peter Good who pines for the lovely Amy (Gertrude Olmstead). Much to Peter's chagrin, city slicker Harry Benson (Tony D'Algy) bewitches his fickle object of affection, but when Peter learns Harry is a bootlegging gangster, he springs into action and - with the help of comely revenue agent Jane (Crawford) - vows to bring him down. Can the self-professed boob become a hero? Is the pope Catholic?

Based on its title, I expected The Boob to be a rollicking slapstick farce packed with gags and pratfalls, but it's surprisingly sedate. The comedy is rather lame and though the film only runs 61 minutes, it feels tedious. Thankfully, some warmth and heart add humanity to the predictable tale and the performances keep it aloft. Crawford is billed third (it was just her sixth credited role) and does what she can with a small, cardboard part, but the conviction and magnetism that would propel and sustain her career over the next half century is on full display. Arthur brings plenty of verve to the earnest Peter, but his stardom would peter out with the advent of talkies a few years later.

The Boob also boasts an impressive array of talent behind the camera, beginning with 30-year-old director William A. Wellman (it was just his ninth feature), who would helm the first Best Picture Oscar winner Wings the very next year and such enduring films as The Public EnemyNothing Sacred, and The Ox-Bow Incident later on. Twenty-four-year-old William Daniels, who would soon become Greta Garbo's cinematographer of choice and photograph countless classics over the next four decades, shot The Boob and future MGM legend (and 11-time Oscar winner) Cedric Gibbons designed the settings. Though they all can't overcome the limitations of the material, they make The Boob much better than it otherwise might have been.

Why Be Good? is a much more enjoyable film due to the effervescence and vulnerability of Colleen Moore, but the clichéd story prevents this romantic comedy from setting itself apart from other genre entries. Moore plays the aptly named Pert Kelly, a perky department store clerk who enjoys the rollicking Jazz Age lifestyle after working hours. At a party, she meets and flirts with blueblood Winthrop Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton), who takes a fancy to her, but little does she know he's the store owner's son as well as the new personnel manager. When Winthrop's father learns of their burgeoning romance, he worries Pert is a gold-digger and has her fired, and when Winthrop tries to woo her back with lavish gifts, Pert's dad questions his daughter's virtue. With everyone thinking the worst of her, Pert begins to wonder why a girl can't have fun and still be considered "good."

More than half a century before singer Cyndi Lauper pondered the same question, Why Be Good? examines the issue of morality during an era of debauchery. Pert sticks to her principles, but refuses to be a wallflower. She realizes men like a certain type of woman and tries to fit that mold, but finds it difficult to attract them without giving them the wrong impression. Like many movies of the period, the plot hinges on Pert passing a propriety test, but her feisty demeanor and independent attitudes make her an endearing heroine, and Moore, who would make only a few more films before retiring at age 35 in 1934, brings a refreshing feminist angle to her sparkling portrayal.

Hamilton, perhaps best known as the brusque Commissioner Gordon on the 1960s Batman TV series, cuts a dashing figure as Winthrop and creates palpable chemistry with Moore. Film fans will also get a kick out of trying to spot a few future stars who appear here as blink-and-you'll-miss-them extras. Jean Harlow can be glimpsed on a penthouse balcony bench in a long shot, while Randolph Scott and Andy Devine also nab a second or two of screen time as a partygoer and bar patron, respectively. Eagle eyes can also espy noted character actors Mischa Auer and Grady Sutton.

Why Be Good? moves along at a brisk pace and deftly mixes whimsical comedy with some heartfelt drama. Contemporary audiences may recoil at the story's dated moral elements, but the film provides an interesting snapshot of life at the tail end of the 1920s and Moore's irresistible and irrepressible charm make this rare curio worth a spin.

Rating for The Boob: 3/5 stars

Rating for Why Be Good?: 4/5 stars

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Boob and Why Be Good? arrive on Blu-ray on a single disc packaged in a standard case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu without music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.

Video Review

Ranking:

The Boob is 98 years old(!), but you'd never know it from the quality of Warner Archive's 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that faithfully honors the cinematography of future Oscar winner William Daniels. The beautifully balanced, film-like image boasts excellent clarity and contrast, deep blacks, and varied grays. The grain structure remains intact and though close-ups are a bit diffused (a common practice during that era), details come through nicely. The source material is remarkably clean and no digital anomalies crop up. Rating: 4-1/2 stars

Why Be Good? looks good as well, but definitely shows its age. Heavier grain lends the image a somewhat gritty texture and some print damage is evident, but overall clarity and contrast remain strong throughout. Rich blacks, bright whites, and a healthy grayscale produce a pleasing picture, good shadow delineation keeps crush at bay, and close-ups exude plenty of detail. Rating: 4 stars

Audio Review

Ranking:

The music score that was added to The Boob in 2003 enhances the film, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track maximizes its impact. Superior fidelity and tonal depth, distinct stereo separation across the front channels, and subtle rear bleeds allow the music to easily fill the room. The crystal clear sound helps modernize this antique picture, while the score itself honors the time period in which the film was produced. Rating: 4-1/2 stars

Though silent, Why Be Good? was produced after the advent of sound, which enabled First National Pictures to provide a synchronized music track with isolated audio effects. The lively DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track nicely renders the period music and clever sonic accents, both of which help immerse us in the story. A wide dynamic scale embraces all the highs and lows of the score, and though a bit of surface noise can be detected during quieter moments, no pops or crackle disrupt the track. Rating: 4 stars

Special Features

Ranking:

No supplements are included on the disc.

Final Thoughts

The Boob may boast Joan Crawford as a selling point, but Why Be Good? is the far better film. Silent film fans will certainly appreciate having both of these antiques on Blu-ray and Warner Archive has done them proud with typically fine video and audio transfers. Though the lack of supplements dulls the luster a bit, this release is still a treat for those who believe silence is golden. Recommended

Order Your Copy of Warner Archive Collection's The Boob & Why Be Good? on Blu-ray