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"The Swamp Angel" ("Painted People")

The third film in Colleen’s contract with First National was The Swamp Angel, directed by Clarence Badger and in production before the release of Flaming Youth. It was the story of Ellie Byrne (Colleen) and Don Lane (Ben Lyn), poor kids who grow up together and over time find success separately. Don has had a crush on Stephanie Parrish (Charlotte Merriam) for years, while Ellie admires Preston Dutton. Don moves to the city to find fame while Ellie goes to work for a famous actress. In a few years Ellie becomes famous as an actress as well, and is engaged to Preston. Don is still struggling. Ellie writes a play based on her life in the neighborhood, which is edited and rewritten by Don. Ellie discovers that Preston is only interested in her money and Don breaks up with Stephanie. When Don and Ellie return to their neighborhood they realize that they love each other.


The film originally featured Colleen's future flapper rival, Clara Bow, but Clara departed the production before the film was complete, and her part was recast. There are several different version of what transpired, depending on who tells the story: Clara claimed Colleen was being greedy for close-up, while Colleen thought Clara wanted Collen's role and left in protest. Either way, Clara went on to fame and scouted out early flapper territory in the film Black Oxen. With the success of Flaming Youth, The Swamp Angel was re-named Painted People.

The Daughter of Mother McGinn was renamed Through the Dark and released in early January, and the timing couldn't have been better to ride the bandwagon of publicity surrounding Colleen and Flaming Youth. Painted People was released before the end of January, Colleen's  next film quickly towards production. It was originally billed as a reunion of the team--the cast and crew--that had made Flaming Youth, and promised to top Flaming Youth for cutting-edge comedy and hi jinks. Originally a short story entitled The Mouth of the Dragon in Ainsle’s Magazine, the title would be changed to The Perfect Flapper, and while the cast couldn't be reassembled, it was nevertheless seen as an almost direct follow-on to Flaming Youth.

Sydney Chaplin (Charlie's brother) replaced Milton Sills and the film would be produced by Earl Hudson; the writers were Joseph Poland as scenarist and Marion Fairfax as editorial director. “The ‘Flaming Youth Girl’ is With Us Again! " an ad proclaimed, almost implying the Patricia Frentiss--the girl in Flaming Youth--would make a return. Instead, Colleen's character was Tommie Lou Pember, a young woman who wanted to outshine the other girls she found herself surrounded by. She throws a costume party dressed as Juliet, and while the part starts off slow, it picks up steam when someone spikes the punch. Tommie's brother-in-law Dick Trayle (Sidney Chaplin), dressed as Romeo, unknowingly shares the punch with Tommie and they end up drunk at the local roadhouse. There is scandal that enveloped Tommie's sister (Phyllis Haver),

Cleeve and Colleen

Early 1920s, courtesy Judy Coleman.
Dick’s wife. Tommie talks the family lawyer Reed Andrews (Frank Mayo), who she is secretly in love with, into playing her sweetheart. She plays the part of the flapper to keep his attention, but Andrews is not impressed. Tommie is distraught, but before long Andrews discovers her true nature and they end up living happily ever after. It is a plot that would be repeated in many of Colleen's films, and a departure from the formula that had created such a sensation in Flaming Youth.

 
In Flaming Youth, Patricia is an impressionable young girl flirting with the dangers of womanhood in a modern age, risking her purity at every turn. In The Perfect Flapper, Tommie is a good girl all along, playing the part of a bad girl. It allowed the film to raise the ante in terms of stunts without Colleen's character being seen as anything but a good girl. The mistaken identity would become a primary ingredient in all of Colleen's flapper films.


As in Flaming Youth, Colleen's brother Cleeve had a role in the film. However, he maintained his interest in water sports and tried out for the Olympics in diving. He came close but did not make the team.



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