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Universities as Sites of Race and Gender Conflict

by Curtis Marez

Based on the novel of the same name by a Brown University English professor, The Plastic Age (1924) is a hybrid of the flapper and college films. In this scene, set in a sketchy roadhouse, presided over by a black “mammy” figure who appears near the end of the clip, two college athletes--blonde nice boy Hugh and dark bad boy Carl (played by Mexican actor Gilbert Roland, born Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso) fight over flapper coed-cum-pachuca Cynthia (Clara Bow), in advance of a police raid. In a gesture of good sportsmanship Hugh helps Carl(os) escape the police through a secret passage. While the two continue as rivals on the football field, ultimately Carl(os) seeks Hugh’s forgiveness and orchestrates the final happy ending joining Hugh and Cynthia. Filmed in part at Pomona  College, the film thus suggests that regional universities in the period were important sites of race/gender/sex conflict and contradictions, in response to which The Plastic Age imagines a reactionary resolution.

Race and Gender in a Los Angeles College Film

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Anglo and Mexican college athletes fight over a flapper.

from The Plastic Age (1926)
Creator: Wesley Ruggles
Distributor: Amazon
Posted by Curtis Marez