Vamp When Ready
Louise Glaum Enters Sex (1920) Sweepstakes
I've got to wonder if this title got some exhibs in dutch, but nothing suggests so in Variety or trades lately checked (did any talkie go by that straight-to-point label?). What does come across is aggressive bid by the W.W. Hodkinson Corporation, an independent, to get Sex before audiences during slack April weeks when, according to insiders, competition was offering duds after winter release of stronger fare. Distribution patterns differed then from now, the weather having more to do with boxoffice success/failure as venues had tougher time staying comfortable, as in freeze winters, roast summers. Sex is dispensed here by Louise Glaum, a vamp who gets bitter taste of her own medicine. Glaum was Theda Bara on streamlined terms, a spider woman (or tigress, take your pick) who makes toys of men and enemies of their wives. There were such women, of course, plying trade in cabarets or backstage, and not a few stole husbands who'd help them become ... well, movie stars like Louise Glaum. Maybe that explains more-or-less sympathetic treatment accorded Sex's vamp --- we reap what we sow, after all, and the ending here doesn't revel in Glaum's defeat. Production is admirably polished; Fred Niblo of later Ben-Hur directed, and there's florid titling by C. Gardner Sullivan, Bill Hart's old wordsmith. Variety gave Sex the pan, delving into how clothes fit actors cast as Broadway swells, right down to cut of trousers. A player not properly turned out undercut conviction of whatever story he/she told, Sex an instance of clothes making, or spoling, the film. When have we last seen a movie judged on outerwear?