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Cecil B. DeMille directed a series of domestic comedy-dramas in the
late teens and early 20s. He found his perfect leading lady for these
provocative pieces in Gloria Swanson. In Don't Change Your Husband,
Swanson plays a bored housewife whose wealthy businessman husband
(Elliott Dexter) pays more attention to work than to her. She is chased
by a handsome roue (Lew Cody) until she relents and divorces the boring
husband for the new lover.
Things soon become familiar and Swanson discovers the new husband is as neglectful as the first. To make matters worse she discovers Cody has a woman on the side (Julia Faye). After several confrontations and convenient meetings, things are resolved.
This was a smash hit in 1919 and helped make Gloria Swanson a major star. Although she was only 20 when she filmed this she is very good as the maybe foolish wife. She looks great and wears some stunning gowns.
There is one memorable scene that is 100% DeMille in which Cody is luring Swanson with promises of wealth, pleasure, and love. As he coos to her she imagines the scenes. Pleasure is a fantastic scene of Swanson in a spidery hammock swinging out over a pool while people dance around. Wealth is a scene in which Swanson is gowned like a Babylonian queen as servants bring her chests of jewels, which shes tosses aside. Love is a scene in which she is a wood nymph making love in a forest glade with a Pan-like character (Ted Shawn). Pure hokum but very entertaining, and Swanson looks great.
Dexter is very good as the bland husband who shaves off his moustache and starts to work out in order to win his wife back. Cody is also good as the fake charmer who is a liar and cheat. Faye is funny as the bitchy other woman--named Toodles no less--who gets hers. Sylvia Ashton plays Mrs. Huckney. Ted Shawn was married to Ruth St. Denis and together they were groundbreaking and influential modern dancers (of the Denishawn School).
Swanson impresses me more every time I see her. She seems to have been such a natural actress and yet there is a way that the camera captures her expressive face that is just mesmerizing. She's a joy to watch.
Very entertaining film with lots of color tints in varying scenes to keep things lively. And a lot of the furnishings are back in style 86 years later.
Gloria Swanson (as Leila Porter) is an understandably bored wife.
Workaholic husband Elliott Dexter (as James Denby Porter) has "lost his
romance" along with his waistline; he also smokes cigars in bed, eats
onions, and snores. He can barely remember his own anniversary - which
is attended by caddish Lew Cody (as Schuyler Van Sutphen); the younger
man eyes Ms. Swanson's voluptuous figure, and flirts unabashedly. Soon,
Swanson is drawn to Mr. Cody. Then, Mr. Dexter decides to try and get
her back. Who will win?
The three principals are fine, with Swanson most impressive in the pivotal role as the woman torn. Julia Faye grabs supporting honors as Cody's other interest, "Toodles"; off-screen, she tempted director Cecil B. DeMille. The DeMille touch is evident; especially in an imaginary sequence wherein Cody promises Swanson... "Pleasure Wealth Love "
******* Don't Change Your Husband (1/26/19) Cecil B. DeMille ~ Gloria Swanson, Elliott Dexter, Lew Cody
No more corned beef and cabbage for her!
This little romantic comedy clips along from scene to scene with a few exotic twists (some imaginary scenes and a costume party). All of this is centered around the wife of the husband(s) who is looking to break out of the doldrums, played by Gloria Swanson (she is twenty here!). Both the leading men have a natural air that is convincing and of course Swanson is perfect in all kinds of moods, from frivolous to worried to hopeful.
Behind all the games and apparent lightheartedness is that old serious problem of staying in love and not straying in love. There's a little corniness, but director DeMille is on top of keeping it snappy and believable in all. As with many films from this period, the subtitles do not just tell what they are saying (or thinking) but often give a kind of philosophical insight, as if to justify the tragedy (or raciness). And there is that higher purpose here, probably better without the instructional text, but it's part of the narrative style, and it's kind of quaint.
If you are looking for visual or formal amazement, you won't find it here. But as a story, well acted, and filmed with precision and economy, it's really a great example. The events might not come as a total surprise, but it's such a modern love story, set almost a hundred years ago, it's a gas. And did I saw Swanson was perfect?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I loved this film. It manages to make the characters sympathetic (well,
most of them) concerning the problems they have with their
Gloria Swanson, as Leila, is in a dusty marriage with a husband who barely notices her presence (though he does notice her absence). The film shows very well why she is tired of married life, and why she is susceptible to a sweet-talking con man, without making her selfish or demanding. The reaction shots of Leila at the dinner table on her anniversary, while her workaholic husband (late to dinner again) eats salted scallions with gusto and pushes bride-and-groom dolls out of the way of his plate, are perfect.
The show is stolen - and stolen effortlessly - by Elliott Dexter as Jim, Leila's neglectful husband. After losing Leila to another man, Jim literally cleans up his act, shaving off his mustache, working out to lose the middle-aged spread, and dressing neatly. There are several shots of Jim at home, lonely and thinking of Leila, including a powerful scene when he finds one of her old dresses in the closet. The film gives the audience the advantage of watching Jim's transformation along with Leila. It isn't just the exterior that's more attractive; we come to know much more about the kind of person Jim really is, and we see how completely different he is from Leila's second husband, Schuyler (Lew Cody). Dexter shines as the before-and-after Jim, who is determined, after discovering Schuyler's true character, to win Leila back, if he can. The film's most touching moment comes when Jim and Leila discover that they are standing under the mistletoe, and Jim talks of what he has lost.
Definitely worth watching.
This movie was certainly an interesting one to watch. The storyline is
one that I can see happening even in today's modern era. All the
characters had personality traits that travel through the ages.
For this movie I did not expect how beautiful the setting would be. All the different sculptures, paintings, furniture, rooms and decorations kept your mind thinking and alive as the movie played on. The costumes were beautiful and it was something you don't see often in movies today.
Overall, I would recommend this movie. It was certainly one that kept my interest although it was a bit boring in the beginning. The plot is something that can happen today and it can teach us all a lesson about how to deal with our lives.
In his autobiography Cecil B. DeMille did not spend time on Don't
Change Your Husband. Except to say that this was his first film with a
new discovery Gloria Swanson. He then went on for a couple of pages
talking about his friendship over the years with her.
Don't Change Your Husband was one of DeMille's silent comedies with a Victorian moral to every one. Here Swanson is a bored wife married to comfortable and stuffy DeMille regular Elliott Dexter. He barely notices the wife any more, keeping his head buried in the newspaper in the morning. He also has a nasty habit of eating raw onions and that will kill romance like nothing else will.
But he's provided for Swanson well including a nice set of jewelry and even though Dorothy Parker hadn't said it yet, diamonds are a girl's best friend.
One day a real Snidely Whiplash type villain Lew Cody starts putting the moves on Swanson. She divorces Dexter and marries Cody. But Cody just wants her jewels for business and to shower on another and badder girl Julia Faye.
DeMille was a child of the Victorian era and this film ends just about as the title suggests. The title itself really gives it all away.
Julia Faye who was one of DeMille's mistresses appeared in most of his feature films right up to the second Ten Commandments. Another was Jeanie MacPherson who was an actress as well as a screenwriter. She did the script for this and many other DeMille films. Lastly there was Gladys Rosson who was his private secretary and on every set right up to The Greatest Show On Earth. He had a regular harem going, but all these women even after the relationship was over were well taken care of work wise.
In fact Faye has one of the more meatier parts in her career as the other woman in Don't Change Your Husband. If this was sound one can only imagine the dialog between Swanson and Faye.
Don't Change Your Husband was the beginning of a fine collaboration between a great director and great star.
The film "Don't Change Your Husband" was a romantic comedy that caught
my eye and kept me interested. Being a female i'm more attracted to
romantic films, that was apart of my interest in this film. Even though
this film was a silent film it gave so much meaning and you could
really understand what each character was feeling and how what their
actions were. The actors played a really good part on their facial
expressions and their body language. I wasn't sure how i was going to
react to the silent film era but with each character really giving
meaning through their facial and body expressions, it really pulled me
I also thought it was similar to todays life, even though it was produced in 1919, you could relate it to todays time, most women want the good looking man and in the end it doesn't turn out to be what you expected and you want what you did have at one point.
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
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.
This is apparently the first film featuring Gloria Swanson--the film
that made her a breakout star. While she was good in the film, I can't
see how this performance in particular was so noteworthy at the
time--but, still it was a very good film.
Gloria plays the wife of a rich slob that continually takes her for granted. He cares little for his grooming, eats onions and forgets their anniversary! And, at the same time, a Lothario comes into their lives and begins paying a lot of attention to Gloria and her dippy husband doesn't even notice or give her any reason NOT to cheat on him. Ultimately, she divorces her hubby and marries the smooth-talking Romeo. However, while the movie could have just been an overdone melodrama (they were pretty common at the time), it takes some interesting twists and turns and is an imaginative and fun film. While not the greatest silent film I have seen, it is a standout and deserves to be remembered.
By the way, the DVD release from Image Entertainment is surprisingly good--with a decent print and music. This hasn't always been true of other Image releases (particularly how sloppily they handled the Chaplin releases).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In this movie I see how the Title fits the movie it's a pretty crafty way to show way it can hurt you in the long run. Plus with the title people might thank they mean in a different way then what the move shows So it's a movie that you have to pay attention too. The story line pretty good and shows the realty of how things you do can drive the one you love to think even through you mean will by you actions. It also shows you that you can't jug a guy by its cover. I like how they explain each scene to you so you know What's going on with giving away the story and I found myself waiting to see what's going to happen next. The music fit in nicely almost perfect even without sound I felt like I was in the movie maybe Because I'm married and also I get that it telling people not to get married it sucks but I'll let tell me for your self
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