Directed by Roy William Neill (USA, 1920, 60 min.). 35mm. Silent with a live score by pianist Kevin Madison.

While often overlooked by the lens of contemporary cinema, Constance Talmadge was one of the silent era’s most popular and brightest comedic stars, making nearly 50 feature films before retiring as an independently wealthy woman in 1929. Although big sister Norma became famous playing serious dramatic roles, “Connie” (as her friends called her) realized that her carefree, fun-loving personality was a better fit for comedy, and consequently crafted a successful career with a series of breezy, effervescent confections that audiences ate up at the box office. She became, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once called her, “the epitome of young sophistication—the deft princess of lingerie and love … the flapper de luxe.” 

Talmadge initially found fame playing the Mountain Girl in D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), and subsequently set up her own production company (overseen by brother-in-law Joseph M. Schenck) in order to create her own feature films. Free to choose the scripts she wanted to make, she expressed the philosophy of her filmmaking thusly: “I want comedies of manners, comedies that are funny because they delight one’s sense of what is ridiculously human in the way of little everyday commonplace foibles and frailties—subtle comedies, not comedies of the slapstick variety.” 

Good References was her sixth and final release of 1920, with a plot revolving around a down-on-her-luck woman named Mary (played by Talmadge), whose lack of references makes it impossible for her to gain employment. When a friend falls ill, Mary impersonates her in order to take a job as secretary to an elderly socialite. Things immediately start going downhill when she is tasked with introducing a ne’er-do-well nephew to high society—but ends up bailing him out of a string of scandals instead. 

Long considered a lost film, an original nitrate print of Good References surfaced at the Národní filmový archiv in Prague, which was provided to UCLA for this restoration. The Czech intertitles have been translated back into English and recreated in the style of the original production. 

Synopsis by Steven K. Hill.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute, Barbara Roisman Cooper and Martin M. Cooper. Preserved from a 35mm nitrate print. Laboratory services by PHI-UCLA Film Laboratory, Pacific Title & Art Studio. Special thanks to Národní filmový archiv, Michal Bregant, Vladimir Opewla, Karel Zima, and Hugh Munro Neeley. Preservation funded by The AFI/NEA Preservation Grants.

Preceded by:

Tramp Strategy

Directed by Alice Guy (Netherlands, 1911, 12 min.). Silent with Dutch intertitles and a live score by pianist Kevin Madison.

A mischievous vagabond infiltrates a bourgeois household in this newly discovered one-reel comedy by the pioneering female director Alice Guy. 

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by New York Women in Film & Television’s Women’s Film Preservation Trust and The Film Foundation. Preserved from a 35mm nitrate tinted print in association with the EYE Filmmuseum, Netherlands, and Be Natural Productions. Laboratory services by Technicolor Restoration Services, PHI-UCLA Film Laboratory, and Fotokem. Special thanks to Eastman Kodak. Preservation funded by New York Women in Film & Television’s Women’s Film Preservation Trust and The Film Foundation.

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