Dancing Mothers (1926)

Review from Variety, February 17, 1926

Dancing Mothers

Famous Players production of the stage play by Edgar Selwyn and Edmund Goulding. Directed by Herbert Brenon and the screen play written by Forrest Halsey. Conway Tearle, Alice Joyce and Clara Bow featured. Reviewed at the Rivoli, New York, Feb. 14. Running time, 71 minutes.

Ethel Westcourt Alice Joyce
Jerry Naughton Conway Tearle
“Kittens” Westcourt Clara Bow
Kenneth Cobb Donald Keith
Mrs. Massarena Dorothy Cumming
Irma Elsie Lawson
Hugh Westcourt Norman Trevor

F.P. isn’t quite sure whether the ending they’re using on Dancing Mothers, wherein the mother gets wise to herself and walks out on her selfish husband and daughter is the right one. So the Rivoli programs carry one of those coupons asking for an audience expression of opinion–the alternative ending probably being that the wife forgives them all and comes back to take up where she left off.

In plot this is the old one about the mother who put on her vamping clothes to get the man with whom her daughter was in love–to get him and throw him over, as a protective measure for the kid. But the mother, who had patiently sat by the fireside for years while her husband and daughter went the wild pace of the day, fell for the man who “threatened” her daughter and the ultimate view shows the mother preparing for an ocean voyage with him. As an excuse for her desertion of her rooster and chick, the plot harps heavily on the point that the father and daughter though only in terms of themselves and their reason for wanting her to stay was to make their own easy lives easier.

Dancing Mothers is a well produced, beautifully played and generally good picture which has one bad feature–and that almost ruinous. It has an anti-climax which makes the concluding episodes seem long and weary. The point of the story is whether the mother really falls for the man she hoped to trick–or whether she resists him. It is quite clear that she falls, and after she does there is a flock of pleading, of subtitles and other choice bits of whatnot to delay the action, which will bring the whole thing to a finish. So for the regular audiences outside the bigger towns, the alternate happy ending and some heavy cutting on the last two reels would seem the solution of the problem.

Alice Joyce runs away with the film. As the mother she is beautiful and attractively gowned in every scene, while her affair is handled nicely by the director. Conway Tearle is okeh as the handsome lover, the only trouble with him is that his makeup worked itself into some creases on the neck.

Clara Bow is the flapper daughter and she appears to greater advantage than at any time since Down to the Sea in Ships. Somebody has told her to quit trying to make everybody believe she’s a great actress and just be herself, for the dark makeup on the eyes is out–the artificial emoting stuff is canned and her performance generally is the excellent result of an excellent director. Norman Trevor is good as the perplexed father, while Dorothy Cumming, as a friend of the wife, gives what she gives to any picture–a good performance.

Dancing Mothers should get over because the scenery, up to that anti-climax, is tight and well knot, and with a possible alternate ending, it would seem that a recutting of the film might turn the trick.

Film Posters and Publicity Stills

Dancing Mothers (1926)Dancing Mothers (1926)Alice Joyce in Dancing Mothers (1926)Clara Bow in Dancing Mothers (1926)

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