Coquette (1929)

Norma Besant (Mary Pickford) is part southern bell, part flapper. The daughter of a doctor, she’s a popular, flirtatious young woman with many suitors after her affection.

Dr. Besant (John St. Polis) wants Norma to end up with Stanley (Matt Moore), but she’s taken a liking to Michael Jeffrey (Johnny Mack Brown), of whom Dr. Besant doesn’t approve.

(Image via Doctor Macro)
(Image via Doctor Macro)

Despite her father’s misgivings, Norma and Michael are smitten and decide to marry in six months, once Michael has saved up enough money to buy her a home. In the meantime, rumors about their relationship begin to spread throughout the town, causing scandal for Norma.

Coquette was directed by Sam Taylor. It is notable for being Mary Pickford’s first taking picture.

This film’s premise has high potential for suspense and drama, but it doesn’t follow through too well, despite a few strong scenes. There are also some distractingly cartoonish impersonations of the southern accent, which I found it hard to look past!

A portion of Coquette takes place in a courtroom, and this is probably the strongest section of the film — toned down a bit compared to the mood of excitement in the beginning, but much more engaging.

Ms. Pickford’s efforts are also a highlight of the film. She has just as strong a presence with sound as she did in her silent films, and does well in the role, bringing strong energy and a lively spirit to the character of Norma.

Coquette isn’t a great film by any stretch — rather, a mediocre melodrama that doesn’t live up to what it could be. I’d consider it worth a watch for Mary Pickford fans or those interested in silent-to-sound transitions of popular actors, but it won’t be added to my favorites list. The score: 2/5

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