There were problems with the script for We Moderns
, John writing that they had agreed to do the film based largely on June Mathis' enthusiasm, but that they found the story as intended for the screen veered away from the original content of the play and novel as written by Israel Zangwill. The kinks, however, were worked out, resulting in a film that wold turn out to be largely an English version of Flaming Youth
, Colleen's character Mary rejects her parents and their Victorian mores. She rejects the man her parents want her to marry in favor of flamboyant Oscar Pleat . Her parents warn her that her reckless behavior will lead to trouble, but she ignores them. One evening she engages in a treasure hunt that takes her around the city of London, and she ends up in Pleat’s rooms. She is rescued by John, the man her parents prefer for her. Mary feels she does not need to be rescued and continues to associate with Pleat until she ends up at a jazz party held in a zeppelin. Pleat attempts to have his way with her, but an airplane collides with the zeppelin, sending it flaming to the ground. Mary survives and is rescued by John, when she realizes that her parents had been right all along and decides to settle down with him. As in Flaming Youth
, Colleen's character engages in reckless "flapperish" behavior, her virtue in endangered, she is rescued at the last minute and finds redemption in the arms of a more conservative (and much older) man.
Before We Moderns
was completed, planning for Colleen's next film was underway. Irene was the film selected, based on a popular musical, and while preparations for the new production were underway, a tentative line-up of projects was was completed. Following Irene
with a “character” story was part of John’s strategy of staggering Colleen’s types of films. This would spread out the genres of Colleen’s films so that no single genre had the opportunity to become overexposed: drama (So Big
); musical (Sally
); comedy (The Desert Flower
); flapper (We Moderns
); and musical (Irene
). There had been talk that Shebo
(a drama) would follow Irene
. If it did, then it couldn't be followed by another drama like Twinkletoes
, which had been suggested.
Work on We Moderns
was finally finished on September 4th. On October 19th, work on Irene began, her time off between the two productions mostly occupied with tests and fittings. For Irene
an elaborate fashion show was planned, that would feature many gowns (plenty of clothes for Colleen to keep, as per her new contract), and would be shot in color. Alfred Green, who had directed the popular Sally
was selected to direct Irene
. The film was another story perfectly suited Colleen’s persona with its working-class roots, romance, mistaken identities, disguises, and the spectacle of choreographed numbers. A bungalow had been built for Colleen on the United Studios lot (where most First National productions in California were shot) that would serve as Colleen's home away from home, and would acti to simplify life for her. He daily routine was described as:
7:30 am – Breakfast
8:00 am – Leave for studio, read mail and dictate replies to secretary en route.
8:30 am – Arrive at studio dressing room and makeup
9:00 am – Report on set
12:30 pm – Lunch
1:00 pm – Siesta
1:30 pm – Back on set
5:00 pm – Projection room to see previous days’ takes on the screen
7:00 pm – Home
7:30 pm – Dinner
8:30 pm – Read script for next days work; answer letters; visit friends; read.
10:00 pm - Taps
In addition to being able to eat and do makeup in her new bungalow, as well as rest between takes and rehearse, the bungalow allowed her to stay away from John when he was drinking. His drunken antics had become a distraction to the actress, who was dedicated to her craft. She needed all the rest she could get, owing to her tight and busy schedule. Her contract required four feature films of her each year. That was a break-neck pace for any performer. Harry Langdon was obligated to produce two feature films a year. Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin produced only one a year each, and Keaton produced two features a year.
In the screen version of Irene
, Irene O’Dare (Colleen) was an Irish lass looking for work. Her mother, Mrs. O’Dare (Kate Price), is busy taking care of the family while her father (Charles Murray) spends his time happily drunk. In New York, Irene lands a job making deliveries for a department store. At a delivery to the home of the wealthy Donald Marshall (Lloyd Hughes) she waits for an interior. Bored, she wraps herself in samples of silk. Marshall walks in on her and mistakes her as one of his mother’s guests. Learning her true identity, he arranges for her to become a model in a new fashion designer’s shop, instructing her and her friends to pose as society girls to boost the reputation of the shop. Irene keeps the nature of her new work a secret from her family. The proprietor of the shop, Madame Lucy (George K. Arthur), stages a fashion show for Donald’s mother, leaving Irene in charge of the shop. At the shop, Donald insists she take part in Lucy’s show. When Irene’s mother finds out about the show, she crashes it. Donald’s mother is taken aback that the models she thought were society girls were in fact commoners. Irene is angered at Donald’s mother, tells him she never wants to see him again. Donald, however, has the gift of gab and manages to win over Irene’s mother. She takes Donald home, where he overhears Irene confess her love for him. He tells her he’s fixed everything with the O’Dare family; they kiss and live happily ever after.