|Index||4 reviews in total|
The four feature-length films I've seen by Lois Weber are different in
many and important ways. They're all similar, however, in that they
deliver a message. This time it's on marital manners and female
behaviour. I consider her messages an obstacle, which she has greatly
overcome in two of the films I've seen: this and "Hypocrites" (1915).
Weber wants us to contrast the two couples--and to learn from that, I suppose. The couples form a doppelgänger theme. Weber makes this clear via reflections: reflections from mirrors, windows and water. Weber uses reflections slyly throughout the film. They demonstrate the doppelgänger theme with the doubled images, and they remind us to also reflect upon the messages, which is the purpose of the whole construction. It's a clever self-reference, and I find it wholly more interesting than the film's messages. Mirrors also represent vanity: the vanity common of women, especially of Mrs. Daly; additionally, they reflect the self-consciousness--the poor self-image of Mrs. Graham.
Weber was an intelligent filmmaker; "Too Wise Wives" is also well made. There isn't much camera movement, but the shots are hardly static. The shot succession is quick enough, and the continuity editing is apt, with scene dissection between long shots and closer looks. A shot of a sunset stands out as pictorially lovely. The sets and, more importantly, the use of them are the standout, though.
The sets are rich looking--very upscale. William Carr furnishes them nicely. Weber and cinematographer William C. Foster use the sets effectively, first, by cutting between close shots and long shots, which take in the scenes more fully. Second, there are many shots through doorways and looking through doorways, leading one to think there's a point to that similar to the use of reflections. The low-angle shots revealing ceilings are the best, though. A willingness to show ceilings has been rare in film history. It also adds some credibility of honesty to the picture.
Far from being static, the film demonstrates a good use of architecture, and the filmmakers position the camera rather than the actors. For me, Calhern stands out--he has a memorable, handsome face. It's no wonder he would become a fine character actor. Lastly, the intertitles, while perhaps being too many, with too much commentary and messages, are notable for the simultaneous moving images alongside some of them. "Too Wise Wives" is blunt in its lecturing, but subtle in its artistry.
In this film about two women, one supposedly unselfish and the other selfish, Lois Weber shows greater cinematic storytelling technique than some of her earlier films. But, the self-indulgence of the writer is exceeded only by the self-indulgence of the director. Unfortunately, they are the same person: Lois Weber. For a silent screen writer to overdo titles is a common failing. To say one thing in the titles and portray another in the film is a literary crime. A martyr is most certainly selfish, crying out indirectly for all to "pay attention to me." It is, however, a silent director's crime to show ongoing conversations without titles in lieu of acting and other filmic portrayal. Sometimes, the audience's intelligence is insulted by titles explaining the obvious, which flies in the face of Weber's quoted (see Taylorology) respect for that intelligence. But in this film is a well-produced narrative, having something to say about wives unwilling to look beyond themselves and about husbands inattentive enough to not see their wives' needs. This film's comment on both marriage partners' requirements by Weber, an acknowledged silent film moralist, is engaging when one overlooks the contradictory titles and director's unwillingness to cut lip flapping.
I was disappointed that Lois Weber's "Too Wise Wives" promotes the idea
husbands need to teach their misdirected wives how to behave. Also, I
with Larry R's comments about the intertitles being too long and
dull--actually, the whole film is quite slow to a modern viewer. Most of
performances are fairly realistic and the actors engaging--Weber has an
for elegant, handsome players, and launched the careers of some--but the
story of two marriages, each of which could use improvement, is not
riveting. 20's and costume buffs will be interested in the shots of
Hollywood bungalows and a lengthy visit to an upscale women's clothing
store. Also, many of the period details, such as fried chicken for
breakfast*, will be novel to 21st-century dwellers. I'm glad this film was
preserved for historians, but most regular folk won't miss anything by not
seeing it. I'm hoping for better things from "The Blot".
*not typical in the San Francisco Bay Area, anyway.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was expecting to see something interesting by an early woman
director, but unfortunately the lack of artistic merit and
craftsmanship in this film is a real disappointment. This is not the
film I would choose to show to represent a woman's skill at film
making. The film is not up to the best films of its era. The pacing is
slow, the plot is predictable, and the acting is stiff. The exception
is Mona Lisa who gives a convincing performance as a "dangerous"
woman." It is true that the characters were difficult to being alive.
The characters for the most part are ordinary middle to upper middle
class couples. It is easy to make a dangerous woman interesting, but to
make ordinary people interesting takes a very talented director, writer
and actors. This film did not have the talent needed for the job.
Another drawback to the film is that it is not very visual. Change a few outdoor scenes, and it could easily have been a film of a stage play. The director did not use the unique aspects of film to enhance the story.
On the other hand, the film is interesting to the social scientist, because it shows 20's homes, furnishing, clothing and manners. It is interesting to woman's rights activists because it shows an early female director. It is interesting to people who follow the morals of the time for the female view of marriage and how woman should manage it. I disagree with another writer here who felt it showed husbands teaching their wives how to behave. The husbands are generally clueless here. The wives are the ones who make mistakes and learn from each other how to manage their marriages. It is all about them. The moral lessons basically are good ones, although expressed in a dated way. The lessons the film teaches are that both men and women can learn from not being selfish in a relationship, both should try to do things that the other person likes instead of what you want them to like, and appreciate the mate you have.
I have only seen this film by Lois Webber, and unless she improved in other films, I don't see why she is considered a filmmaker of any significance.
I don't think this film would have been restored if it had been directed by a man. Perhaps it was restored because it showed some of the sociological issues mentioned above. If it were restored because it represents an early female artist, then there are many better films where women played an important that are still languishing and deteriorating in vaults without the finances to be saved. "A Kiss for Cinderella," for example, or "Annie Laurie," for another example. Both have strong and important female leads and in the case of "Annie Laurie," a major female influence creating the film. It would have been better to use the money to restore one of these instead.
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