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Why Change Your Wife? (1920)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama | 19 September 1921 (UK)
Robert and Beth Gordon are married but share little. He runs into Sally at a cabaret and the Gordons are soon divorced. Just as he gets bored with Sally's superficiality, Beth strives to ... See full summary »



(scenario), (story) (as William DeMille) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Robert Gordon
Beth Gordon
Sally Clark
Sylvia Ashton ...
Aunt Kate
Mayme Kelso ...
Harriette, the Dressmaker
Gordon's Butler
Edna Mae Cooper ...
Gordon's Maid
Harriette's Client


Robert and Beth Gordon are married but share little. He runs into Sally at a cabaret and the Gordons are soon divorced. Just as he gets bored with Sally's superficiality, Beth strives to improve her looks. The original couple falls in love again at a summer resort. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 September 1921 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Hvorfor bytter Manden Hustru?  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


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The Dying Poet
By Louis Moreau Gottschalk as L.M. Gottschalk
Interpreted by Victor Concert Orchestra
Published by Victor #35642-B
Recording date: 1915-04-26
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User Reviews

"I do love you dear, but right now I'm shaving"
8 October 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

Why Change Your Wife? is something of a sequel to DeMille's first collaboration with Gloria Swanson, Don't Change Your Husband. As the title suggests however, the roles are now reversed and this time it is Swanson who is rejected by her husband, and must get it together to win him back.

Of course, this being your typical, clichéd battle-of-the-sexes flick, second-rate wives are an entirely different kettle of fish to second-rate husbands. So whereas Elliot Dexter in Don't Change Your Husband had to transform himself from slob into sophisticate, Gloria Swanson's journey is from dowdy frump to sexy siren. It's here that the problems with Why Change Your Wife? begin. It's not that Swanson can't pull off the goody-goody image – she can, even though it's against her usual type. DeMille in fact insults her acting ability by grossly simplifying her character, even giving her glasses - which of course disappear (along with any apparent sight difficulties) after her makeover. And Thomas Meighan, so perfectly cast as Creighton in the previous year's Male and Female, here seems rather bland, so much so that it seems odd that Swanson would want him back. Compare this to Don't Change Your Husband, where we applauded Swanson for dumping her oafish husband, then sympathised with her when her second marriage didn't turn out as planned, finally to route for Elliot Dexter once he had smartened himself up. You don't get any of this in Why Change Your Wife? because the characters are so shallow.

Changes were taking place in the old DeMille style too. Although one or two scenes – notably the opening sequence in the bathroom – are played out with no intertitles, allowing the acting to convey everything, too much of the picture … is annoyingly broken up … with pointless bits of dialogue. It's a shame because DeMille still proves himself able to tell the story visually. In particular his use of point-of-view shots had increased over his last few pictures, and they are particularly apt in these marriage-gone-wrong melodramas which are after all about little more than people ogling or sneering at each other. DeMille's eye for vivid presentation is still top-notch too – for example look at the way he neatly frames Swanson in a symmetrical composition when she begins trying on those "strapless, backless, indecent" dresses.

DeMille's screenwriter/mistress Jeanie Macpherson as usual provides the wordiness, and as those familiar with their silent works will know she had a rather unique style, blending poetic rhythm with a somewhat bizarre take on reality. Why Change Your Wife? features some of the best (or worst) examples of her oddness, at one point beginning a title with "If this were fiction…" My favourite Macpherson-ism of the lot though is the final line of that same title: "It's generally a brick or a banana peel that changes a man's destiny." Classic.

A final fault with Why Change Your Wife? is that it takes itself too seriously. Don't Change Your Husband had a comedy edge which balanced out its dramatic side, and also made the clichés more palatable. The later picture though presents itself more or less as a straight drama, but the storyline and characters are too flimsy to carry it off.

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