The Flapper

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The Flapper
The flapper - glass slide - 1920.jpg
Glass slide for the film
Directed byAlan Crosland
Screenplay byFrances Marion
Story byFrances Marion
Produced byMyron Selznick
StarringOlive Thomas
Warren Cook
CinematographyJohn W. Brown
Distributed bySelect Pictures
Release date
  • May 10, 1920 (1920-05-10) (United States)[1]
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)

The Flapper is a 1920 American silent comedy film starring Olive Thomas. Directed by Alan Crosland, the film was the first in the United States to portray the "flapper" lifestyle, which became a cultural craze or fad in the 1920s.


Sixteen-year-old Genevieve 'Ginger' King (Thomas) is living in a very wealthy family in the boring town of Orange Springs, Florida with her younger siblings, where her unchaperoned decision to drink a soda with a young male is considered scandalous. Because of her questionable behavior and yearning for a more excitable life, Ginger's father decides to send her to a boarding school in Lake Placid, New York. Mrs. Paddles' School for Young Ladies is administered by the strict disciplinarian, Mrs. Paddles (Marcia Harris).

Contemporary advertisement for The Flapper. May 8, 1920

Despite the strictness there, the girls have fun getting into flapper-lifestyle trouble including flirting. Richard Channing (William P. Carleton), an older man, rides past the seminary every day, prompting romantic fantasies among the schoolgirls. When Ginger connives a sleigh ride with Channing, she lies to him about her age, saying she is "about twenty". Ginger is quickly charmed and becomes enamored with him. Ginger soon gets into trouble with the headmistress by sneaking out to the local country club where Channing is having a party. One of her schoolmates, Hortense (Katherine Johnston), who is described as “a moth among the butterflies”, informs on her. Hortense’s actual motive for doing this is to get the headmistress out of the way so she can rob the school's safe and flee with her crooked boyfriend Thomas Morran (Arthur Housman).[2] Acting on a vaguely worded note she receives, Ginger—while traveling home from school—goes to a hotel in New York City where Hortense and Thomas are staying. They force her to take some suitcases for safekeeping, cases that contain stolen valuables, including fancy clothes and jewelry.

Knowing that Channing has gone to Orange Springs on a yachting trip, Ginger decides to use the clothes and jewels to present herself as a more-mature, well-dressed “woman of experience” when she returns home.[2] Her plan backfires, and her father believes she is lying when she says it is all a joke. Detectives then show up wanting to know why she has stolen loot; and both her young admirer Bill and Channing think she has really become a wicked woman. Hortense and her crooked boyfriend now turn up in Orange Springs to reclaim their ill-gotten loot. Their subsequent capture by the police clears Ginger's name and restores her reputation.

The Flapper

The events in the lives of Ginger King and another character are presented as incidents in a (non-fiction) newsreel at the end of the movie.


The Flapper, 1920

Production notes[edit]

  • Frances Marion wrote the screenplay, which is credited with popularizing the slang term “flapper” throughout the United States in the 1920s.[3]
  • Olive Thomas appeared in only two films after The Flapper. She died in Paris in September 1920.[4]


The Film Daily gave it an overall positive review on May 23, 1920, praising the acting of Olive Thomas. Its main criticism was regarding the editing and the conclusion of the film, writing that the story was "cleverly written with many amusing situations, but latter reels should be compressed".[5]

Public domain and home-media release[edit]

  • The Flapper, originally a “six-reeler”, is no longer under copyright. Now in the public domain, the film is free for general, unrestricted use.[2][6]
  • In 2005, The Flapper was released on Region 1 DVD by the Milestone Collection as part of The Olive Thomas Collection.[7]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Current Releases". The Film Daily. May 30, 1920. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Quotation is transcription from one of the intertitles in The Flapper. “Bill Sprague Collection -THE FLAPPER-Olive Thomas-PUBLIC DOMAIN”, Internet Archive, San Francisco, California. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  3. ^ Boyer Sagert, Kelly (2010). Flappers: A Guide to an American Subculture. ABC-CLIO. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-313-37690-0.
  4. ^ Lowe, Denise (2005). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films, 1895-1930: 1895-1930. Haworth Press. pp. 526. ISBN 0-7890-1843-8.
  5. ^ "Wonderful Comedy Most Of The Way But Has Weak Finish". The Film Daily. May 23, 1920. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  6. ^ “The Flapper, 1920”, Public Domain Movies—Feature Films in the Public Domain. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  7. ^ Giddins, Gary (May 17, 2005). "Rediscovering Maurice Elvey's Masterpiece". Retrieved November 20, 2012.

External links[edit]