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Louise Glaum (as Adrienne Renault) is a nightclub "Vamp" who enjoys carefree sex with the married men who come to see her dance at New York's gayest midnight frolic club - "The Frivolity". As the film opens, Ms. Glaum is having a satisfying affair with William Conklin (as Philip Overman); he is stepping out on lonely wife Myrtle Stedman (as Mrs. Overman) to see Glaum perform her sensational "Spider Dance". Glaum has taken new "Frivolity" club beauty Peggy Pearce (as Daisy Henderson) under her wing - taking her to parties and sharing her "you only live once" philosophy. Glaum wants Ms. Pearce to avoid "fly-by-nights", and hook up with a wealthy married man. Well - wouldn't you know it, but, very soon, the frivolous Glaum gets that "nest-building" urge! She finds Irving Cummings (as Dick Wallace), and settles down. Men being men, Glaum soon finds herself sitting home alone, while Mr. Cummings steps out to "The Frivolity" and finds a mistress - who can she be?
The luridly titled "Sex" is really an old-fashioned morality story; specifically, it preaches, "The standards of morality eternally demand that the naked soul of Sex be stripped of its falsehoods - which can only be atoned for through bitter tears." Satan even makes a cameo appearance; laughing at Glaum as she parties with Cummings, the devil knows what is in store for the couple! Note, however, that the film offers hope for redemption, as evidenced in its extended coverage of Mr. and Mrs. Overman's storyline.
Glaum is great as the "Partying Mistress" turned "Dutiful Wife" - she is very convincing, in a wide ranging role. Watch for the scene where Glaum discovers the identity of her husband's mistress; it's an expertly performed silent scene. The supporting cast is also effective - Pearce (aka Viola Barry) and Cummings (later, a successful director) playing well opposite Glaum. And, Fred Niblo directed "Sex" with a sure touch. Despite its strengths, however, the styles and situations on-screen make the film seem more like a silent relic than a silent classic.
****** Sex (3/29/20) Fred Niblo ~ Louise Glaum, Irving Cummings, Viola Barry
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