Kiki (1926)

Like so many other girls, Kiki (Norma Talmadge) longs to be a famous performer, but instead she’s out on the streets selling newspapers.  But Kiki is a pretty smart gal, and when she overhears a chorus girl getting fired, she seizes the opportunity to see the show’s producer Victor Renal (Ronald Colman), whom she’s long admired, to land a spot in the show.  When she can’t immediately see him, she waits around, and eventually another wannabe chorus girl walks in with a letter of introduction.  Kiki poses as Victor’s secretary, takes her letter, and passes it off as her own when she does see Victor.  It’s clear that Kiki isn’t really an experienced performer, but she can sing and Victor likes her spirit.

Getting into the show quickly proves to only be half the battle.  The real challenge is staying out of the warpath of Paulette (Gertrude Astor), the show’s star and Victor’s fiancée.  Kiki’s stage debut is disastrous and ends with her falling into the orchestra pit and getting tangled in a harp.  Even though the audience finds it hilarious, Paulette isn’t as amused and has Victor fire her.  Kiki breaks down in tears because now she has nowhere to go since she spent all her rent money on a new outfit to impress Victor.  Victor takes pity on poor Kiki and takes her out to dinner, much to the dismay of Paulette.  So Paulette asks Victor’s friend Baron Rapp (Marc McDermott) out to the same restaurant and Paulette makes sure Kiki gets good and drunk.  Instead of being put off by her, Victor feels sorry for her once again and lets her stay at his place for the night.

But one night turns into several.  Victor doesn’t have the heart to throw her out with no place to go and besides, he’s starting to like her.  Kiki makes herself right at home at Victor’s place and does everything she can to make him think that Paulette doesn’t love him anymore.  One day, the Baron comes over and tries to take Kiki off his hands by tying to convince her that if she comes to live with him, he can turn her into a star.  Victor overhears this and becomes just a bit jealous.  Meanwhile, Paulette is in the other room trying to convince Victor that she loves him.  Kiki almost falls for it, but she soon comes to her senses.  Paulette and Kiki end up getting into a big fight and Kiki is knocked unconscious.  Or so everyone thinks.  She fakes unconsciousness so well that a doctor claims she’s in a coma and could stay that way for two years.  When Victor decides he can’t leave her alone in that condition, Kiki is miraculously “cured!”  The two finally kiss and presumably go on to live happily ever after.

For as much as I love silent movies, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie starring any of the Talmadge sisters before now.  I know Norma was better known for her dramatic roles, but I really liked her in this comedy.  She had great movement, expressions, charisma, and charm.  The scenes where she’s supposed to be unconscious are just classic.  She played off of Ronald Colman and especially Gertrude Astor very well.  The movie is very fun and charming with some pretty hilarious intertitles.  “And may all your children be radio announcers!” has got to be one of my favorite silent movie insults.  If you only know Norma Talmadge for her serious roles, then Kiki is sure to be a refreshing change of pace.

One comment

  1. i truly love this movie after seeing it the other day on tv i am obsessed and i encourage anyone who loves a classic, funny, crazy silent story to watch this film! norma is just exquisite in this role her comedic timing is amazing!!!

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