“I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Colleen Moore was the most famous actress of the 1920s. While her film career spanned from 1916-1934, she reached the height of her fame in 1923 with the film Flaming Youth.
Having had more standard “leading lady” roles before, Moore was reborn when the film showcased her new trademark Dutch-boy bob, short skirts and long strings of pearls.
Her character embodied everything The Flapper stood for: Self-empowered female youth who listened to jazz music, smoked cigarettes and drove cars (previously male only activities), wore make-up, and generally flaunted their disdain for what was then considered “decent” behavior.
The Flapper archetype opened up a whole new kind of role for actresses and brought the racier side of the Women’s Movement to the big screen. It pushed aside the traditional Virginal Heroine and Spunky Little Girl roles in favor of a more complex woman.
By the time Moore had catapulted to stardom in 1923, it was already unthinkable that The Flapper was the kind of part Mary Pickford or Lillian Gish could play.
This extended trailer is all that remains of Flaming Youth:
I love Moore’s aesthetic because, though it was wild for her time, it retains a dainty femininity. I admire her juxtaposition of strength and softness, because I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.
Having emerged from the oppression of the Victorian Era, The Flapper is all about feeling free to have fun and be yourself. I think that’s a pretty good message, don’t you?