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Cecil B. DeMille
Three centuries before Christus. Young Cabiria is kidnapped by some pirates during one eruption of the Etna. She is sold as a slave in Carthage, and as she is just going to be sacrificed to... See full summary »
Lord Brockelhurst, his unwilling betrothed Lady Mary, his butler Crichton and scullery maid Tweeny are on Lord Loam's yacht which is wrecked leaving them all to cope on a desert island. Class distinctions fall apart for the time being. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gloria Swanson says in her biography that Cecil B De Mille called her "Young fellow" during all the shooting, as if she was an ordinary man of the crew. She also says that he did not call her anything else during days after the production of the film. See more »
Thomas Meighan (as the admirable Crichton) is head butler for an aristocratic British family; he is obviously quite taken with luscious Gloria Swanson (as Lady Mary Lasenby), but unable to cross class barriers. The household's scullery maid Lila Lee (as Tweeny) is in love with Crichton. The threesome, and some others, go out yachting; when cross currents hit, the ensemble is shipwrecked! Turns out, the servant class has far more advanced survival skills. Who knew?
Ms. Swanson is the film's main attraction; her bathing and showering scenes, near the beginning of the film, helped clean-up at the box office. Note that whenever there is nakedness afoot, DeMille has an object cover-up Swanson's figure, however. Though not as famed, Swanson's later wet spot, when she is nearly drowned in the bowel of the sideswiped yacht, is far superior. Swanson and Ms. Lee perform well, actually, with the material given. Loved the "upper crust" lady complaining about limp toast!
Mr. Meighan delivers the movie's finest performance; the other players have moments, but Meighan is outstanding in the pivotal role of Butler Crichton. From the moment he checks the mansion for dust, he is delightful; the actor makes the movie even more interesting when the suppressed desire for Swanson begins registering on his face. A couple of smaller roles are noteworthy: Wesley Barry is great as the peeping Buttons, indicating what Cecil B. DeMille's "Male and Female" is really all about (more or less). You should also keep an eye on Bebe Daniels during the "King of Babylon" imaginary sequence; she is terrific as Meighan's right-hand lady. Silent film veterans Guy Oliver and Clarence Burton inexplicably disappear, after the shipwreck. Theodore Roberts and Raymond Hatton are around much longer, thankfully.
The film is recommended, and DeMille obviously expert - but it's one of the more ludicrously-themed silent era classics preserved for modern scrutiny. Apparently, in adapting "The Admirable Crichton" for DeMilledom, the director substituted sex for satire. AND, he gets his titillating re-title "Male and Female" from no less than God Himself! quoting, "So God created Man in His own image, in the image of God created He him: Male and Female created He them." There is also a oddly placed bow to the good ol' U.S.A. With all its oddities, it's still a fun film.
******** Male and Female (11/23/19) Cecil B. DeMille ~ Thomas Meighan, Gloria Swanson, Lila Lee
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