“Kiki,” a movie made in 1926, stars Norma Talmadge as an ambitious singer who crashes a stage review, makes a nuisance of herself, and ends up falling in love with Monsieur Victor Renal, the theater manager (Ronald Coleman). One normally does not think of Norma Talmadge as a comedic actress, but she goes all out in full slapstick mode for the starring role here.
In real life, the police would arrive, gather Kiki and her personal belongings, and escort her out of Renal’s life forever. But the great thing about Kiki is that we don’t have to listen to a long and drawn out explanation of why Renal tolerates her. It’s a silent movie. At the beginning, we see her selling newspapers on the street. Later, Renal discovers she’s homeless, so he feels sorry for her.
Kiki refuses to leave Renal’s mansion, and even feigns an illness that leaves her comatose with “catalepsy,” a nervous condition characterized by rigidity and indifference to pain. The doctor says it could last two years. In a hilarious bit, Talmadge endures being lifted and repositioned as she remains as stiff as a statue. Luckily, this extended comedy business finally leads to the romantic conclusion.
Clarence Brown, the director, made such silent classics as “Flesh and the Devil” in 1926 and “A Woman of Affairs” in 1928. He also directed sound films such as “National Velvet” in 1944 and “The Yearling” in 1946. Actors loved working with the six-time Academy Award nominated director. Greta Garbo called him her favorite director. So, with Brown directing, it’s no surprise that Norma Talmadge connected in this comedy role. However, the film did not do well at the box office in 1926