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Hairpins (1920)

A young attorney hopes to better his position in the business world by making a favorable impression socially. But his wife, a careless and slovenly woman, presents an obstacle to his hopes... See full summary »


Fred Niblo


C. Gardner Sullivan (screenplay), C. Gardner Sullivan (story)




Cast overview:
Enid Bennett ... Muriel Rossmore
Matt Moore ... Rex Rossmore
William Conklin William Conklin ... Hal Gordon
Margaret Livingston ... Effie Wainwright
Grace Morse ... Mrs. Kent
Al W. Filson Al W. Filson ... John Burman (as Al Filson)
Aggie Herring Aggie Herring ... The Maid


A young attorney hopes to better his position in the business world by making a favorable impression socially. But his wife, a careless and slovenly woman, presents an obstacle to his hopes. He begins to squire about his secretary, and an affair ensues. His wife, however, decides she can go him one better and embarks on a change in lifestyle. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Release Date:

1 August 1920 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

"Keep young and beautiful..."

I saw 'Hairpins' at Cinefest 2006 in Liverpool, New York; it was a last-minute substitute for a James Kirkwood movie I'd lot rather have seen instead. A great deal of the narrative in 'Hairpins' implies that a woman's worth is based on her physical appearance. I'd like to hope that this sort of story wouldn't be made nowadays, but I'm not so sure.

Matt Moore plays a successful young lawyer with the unlikely name Rex Rossmore, whose career is on the rise. His wife Muriel (Enid Bennett) is idle and dowdy with it, having nothing to do all day, and doing it while lounging about in a shapeless garment which I would have called a dressing-gown, but which this movie's intertitles identify as a 'kimono'. Muriel is always leaving a trail of hairpins as she slouches her way through the Rossmore home with cleansing cream on her face.

Rex feels that his legal practice requires him to make a regular appearance in all the best night spots in town, but he also feels that his dowdy wife would not make a good impression ... so his companion for these jaunts is his secretary Effie (the delectable Margaret Livingston). Realising that she's going to lose her husband, Muriel decides to drink prussic acid ... until she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror, and realises what a dull and unattractive corpse she'll be. Hoo boy.

Muriel decides she needs a total makeover. Taking advice in behaviour from the worldly Mrs Kent (Grace Morse, quite good) and ditto in fashion from Hal Gordon (William Conklin), Muriel completely changes her appearance ... and even learns to smoke! At a Jazz Age party, she crosses paths with her husband ... who is scandalised when he realises that this hot mama is his own wife.

SPOILERS COMING. This sanctimonious movie tries to have it both ways. After telling us for six reels that a woman is no more than what she looks like, now we have the redemption scene in which Rex tells his wife he loves her for herself, and doesn't care what she looks like. The happy couple decide to spend more quiet evenings at home ... but Rex buys Muriel a fancier kimono.

I well and truly wondered about the mind-set of the people who made this movie. 'Hairpins' was released shortly after American women got the vote: I wonder if the men who wrote, produced and directed this movie felt some need for a backlash. 'Hairpins' indicates that women are useless except as arm candy (the Rossmores' housework is done by the maid), and they have an obligation to look good so as not to let down their menfolk. Part of this movie's problem is the casting; Enid Bennett is an attractive woman who has clearly gone to some effort to look dowdy and plain, so it's no real surprise when she turns into a glamour girl. I would have been more impressed if the film had cast a genuinely plain actress (such as Norma Shearer) and then given her the glamour treatment.

As usual for a Thomas Ince film, this movie's intertitles are far more elaborate than they really needed to be. I'll rate 'Hairpins' just 4 out of 10.

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