Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why Be Good?

As a kind of follow-up to the previous post . . . be sure and check out Why Be Good? Sexuality and Censorship in Early Cinema, an informative and entertaining documentary about the silent film and early sound era. This film, released in 2007, was directed by Elaina Archer and written by Archer and film historian Scott Eyman.

Other well known film historians and biographers who appear in the film include Jeanine Basinger, Marc Wanamaker, Kevin Thomas and Barry Paris, as are past San Francisco Silent Film Festival guests Cari Beauchamp, Mark Viera, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain, and William Wellman Jr.

Why Be Good? Sexuality and Censorship in Early Cinema traces the fascinating history of sex and sin in early cinema through rare archival footage and revealing interviews with Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Louise Brooks and others.

Narrated by Diane Lane, Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema also features Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, Douglas Fairbanks, Marlene Dietrich and Barbra Stanwyck in its exploration of the battle between artist and censor. The film reveals little known details of some of the scandals that led to the crackdown known as the Production Code of 1935.

There are not enough documentaries about early film in the world. Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema is a good one, and well worth watching.


  1. I did an interview with Elaina about this documentary:

  2. How does one go about seeing this film? I imagine it would have been useful to my research for my essay in the last Silent Film Festival program guide, which looked at West of Zanzibar primarily through its connections to the censorship issue. I just noticed that this essay, and the festival essays for Chang, J'Accuse, and Sherlock, Jr., are now available at the SFSFF website archive.

  3. The documentary? Its on amazon (DVD):

  4. Brian, this film has been released on DVD and is available through or at better shops (like Amoeba?)