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Don't Change Your Husband (1919)

 |  Comedy  |  26 January 1919 (USA)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 899 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 5 critic

Leila Porter comes to dislike her husband James, a glue king who is always eating onions and looking sloppy. But after she divorces him and marries two-timing playboy Schuyler Van Sutphen the now-reformed James looks pretty good.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Elliott Dexter ...
James Denby Porter
...
Leila Porter
Lew Cody ...
Schuyler Van Sutphen
Sylvia Ashton ...
Mrs. Huckney
Theodore Roberts ...
The Bishop, Rt. Rev. Thomas Thornby
...
Nanette aka Toodles
James Neill ...
Butler
Ted Shawn ...
Faun
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Storyline

Leila Porter comes to dislike her husband James, a glue king who is always eating onions and looking sloppy. But after she divorces him and marries two-timing playboy Schuyler Van Sutphen the now-reformed James looks pretty good.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

26 January 1919 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Après la pluie, le beau temps  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filming began on 7 November 1918, but was interrupted less than an hour later when (false) reports that the war was over reached Paramount, and everyone was sent home for the rest of the day. See more »

Quotes

James Denby Porter: Your trouble is your sense of humor - how about the flowers you sent Leila when she was *my* wife? You stole her love from me - but I'm going to try my damnedest to win it back!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"The dangerous alchemy of a pretty woman"
24 September 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

Don't Change Your Husband is, on the one hand, the beginning of a series of lightweight marital comedies from Cecil B. DeMille. On the other it is his first picture to star Gloria Swanson, probably the greatest actress of the silent era, and is the film which made her a star.

Although the old DeMille formula was beginning to change, and his films were becoming wordier and less purely visual, with such an expressive performer as Swanson we regain much of that silent storytelling style. Her character does very little, but conveys volumes through subtle gesture and facial expression – with a particular talent for looks of disdain. In real life Swanson was herself coming towards the end of her disastrous marriage to Wallace Beery, and it's possible that this fact fuelled her convincing performance.

As if to best complement his leading lady's talents, DeMille's use of framing and close-ups is particularly strong here. He uses cinematic technique to show off the acting – often holding Swanson in lengthy close-ups at key moments – and also to clarify the story visually. For example, when we are introduced to the character of Toodles, she is shown reflected three times in a dressing table mirror. Her character disappears from the story, only to become important towards the end. That attention-grabbing first shot of her helps us remember who she was. Later, at the anniversary dinner, Swanson and future husband number two Lew Cody are framed together in one shot, while Elliot Dexter is isolated in his own frame. Also – and this is a sign of the increasing sophistication of cinema in general – there is much use of reaction shots – for example the disapproving glance of the bishop when Cody acts out his intentions with the wedding figure dolls.

In contrast to DeMille's visual narrative method was the increasingly verbose screen writing of his collaborator Jeanie Macpherson. As I've remarked in several other comments, Macpherson could put together a strong and dramatic story, but like DeMille she tended to state her themes in a somewhat pretentious and flamboyant style. And so we get these very long quasi-philosophical title cards about the pitfalls of married life which, if they improve the story at all, it is only because they are unintentionally funny. For example, only Jeanie Macpherson could come up with a line like "Fate sometimes lurks in Christmas shopping". Fortunately though in this picture these titles mostly introduce scenes rather than break them up.

Although the pictures he made around this time tended to be small scale, it is at this point that DeMille seemed to develop his taste for the spectacular. You can see him start to sneak in excuses for a bit of razzmatazz like the little fantasy scenes of Swanson being showered with "Pleasure, wealth and love". It wouldn't be until the early twenties after the unofficial embargo on historical pictures was lifted that he would get the chance to go all out with the grand spectacle.

All in all, Don't Change Your Husband is a fairly decent DeMille silent picture, although to be honest it is only really the presence Gloria Swanson that lifts it above the average. It's curious though that this is supposedly a comedy, and Swanson was cast at least in part because of her background at Mack Sennett's slapstick factory. She hated comedy acting, and here gives a dramatic rather than a comic performance. It makes sense then that the only straight drama she did with DeMille, Male and Female, was by far the strongest of their collaborations.


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