Clara Bow is another of our silent era icons. Her wild party-girl screen persona wasn’t far from the truth as it turned out. Ultimately, the very stuff that made her so popular with film audiences of the 1920s turned out to be her undoing by the end of the decade. But the fascinating thing about shooting-star personalities — the thing that makes their self-destructive lives so enthralling — is our observation of how brightly their stars burn before exhausting themselves in one sense and exhausting their audience in another.
Our hero, Hugh, is attending college. His parents are proud. Hugh meets our heroine Cynthia. She’s a wild party girl (guess who?). She falls for the geeky Hugh. College pranks, hazing, parties, dancing, smoking and implied drinking follow. Hugh’s grades and athletics slip. His parents are not so proud. To further complicate matters, Carl is also vying for Cynthia’s affections. Through this all, Cynthia still wants to party. A police raid on a speakeasy, and a fight. But Hugh keeps Carl from being expelled by helping him escape the raid. Cynthia courageously dumps Hugh to save him from her lifestyle. Two years later, Hugh wants Cynthia. Cynthia wants Hugh. Carl wants quarterback. Hugh wants quarterback. Carl will cheat. Carl is inadequate in the big game. Hugh turns out to be the hero. Cynthia finds out in their senior year that Hugh still wants her, but Hugh sees Cynthia in Carl’s arms. Will they ever get back together? Do you really care?
The Plastic Age is a run-of-the-mill college student programmer, and is nothing more now than it was in the 1920s — a Clara Bow vehicle. And while a number of better-looking and higher-quality Bow films survive, The Plastic Age is an important component in the assessment of Bow’s career and in study of the 1920s college film subgenre. — Carl Bennett
2001 DVD edition
The Show Off (1926), black & white, 81 minutes, not rated,
with The Plastic Age (1925), color-tinted black & white, 73 minutes, not rated.
Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID0511DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-05112-4.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Region 1NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 5.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 17 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $24.99.
Release date: 7 August 2001.
Country of origin: USA
This DVD edition appears to have been transferred from a 16mm reduction film print. The transfer is well done at a proper projection rate, but the print itself is of soft focus — even blurry — and is rough in places, being marked in several places to the point of viewer distraction. We can assume that the video transfer has been made from the best possible surviving film materials, and it is far better to see the film in this condition than to not be able to see it at all. The film is accompanied by a music score compiled and performed by Eric Beheim on a synthesizer.
While this edition of The Plastic Age is compromised by the condition of its surviving print, this DVD still represents the best edition of The Plastic Age available on home video. The condition of the excellent print of The Show Off alone makes the disc worth purchasing. We recommend the DVD for Clara Bow enthusiasts and completists, and to the collector who has to have everything.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.