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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 »


Cecil B. DeMille


Olga Printzlau (scenario), William C. de Mille (story) (as William DeMille) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Thomas Meighan ... Robert Gordon
Gloria Swanson ... Beth Gordon
Bebe Daniels ... Sally Clark
Theodore Kosloff ... Radinoff
Sylvia Ashton Sylvia Ashton ... Aunt Kate
Clarence Geldart ... Doctor
Mayme Kelso ... Harriette, the Dressmaker
Lucien Littlefield ... Gordon's Butler
Edna Mae Cooper Edna Mae Cooper ... Gordon's Maid
Jane Wolfe ... 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) See more »

Also Known As:

Hvorfor bytter Manden Hustru? See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


For a silent movie, music plays an important part in it, with a private music recital and a public orchestra performance giving the mood for two scenes. Most significantly, music records with three different types of music are prominently displayed in the hands of two main actors, and are intrinsic to the story development. See more »


[Intertitle]: [about the cat and the dog] Two who already regret Robert's marriage.
See more »


Featured in Hollywood: Autocrats (1980) See more »


Give Me a Smile and a Kiss
Lyricst Alex Sullivan
Composer Josef Pasternack
Sung by John Steel
Published by Victor #18623-A
Recording date: 1919-09-29
See more »

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User Reviews

Never underestimate the power of a dress
6 January 2006 | by poccaSee all my reviews

Today Cecil B. DeMille is probably best known for the overwrought (if thoroughly enjoyable) biblical epic "The Ten Commandments." But during the silent era he made several sophisticated comedies portraying the battle of the sexes such as "Why Change Your Wife," an engaging mixture of bizarre, over the top glamour (the negligee the husband buys his wife is so elaborately constructed I couldn't blame her for looking dismayed when she first saw it) and dead on day-to-day detail about married life—is there a couple who hasn't gotten in each other's way and on each other's nerves when sharing a bathroom? Gloria Swanson plays Beth Gordon, a young wife who cannot resist the temptation to improve her husband, scorning his fox trot records for something called "The Dying Poet." She loses him to the proverbial shop girl, Sally Clark—hilariously played by Bebe Daniels—a character so vulgar she owns a gyrating Kewpie Doll. (This film's frank endorsement of consumerism has often been remarked on, but it rightly acknowledges that what we chose to buy tells as much about our class and character as anything else). The husband soon realizes that he made a mistake, clearly finding Sally's baby talk even more tiresome than Beth's high minded nagging, but it isn't until Beth transforms herself into a sexy knockout wearing the height of pre-flapper fashion that the two reunite.

The movie isn't entirely cynical about romance—it is never really in doubt that Beth and her husband love each other—but it is shrewd enough to recognize that in holding the attention of your partner a little glamour and sophistication doesn't hurt (the husband isn't let off the hook though, and his naiveté in expecting the honeymoon phase to last forever is mocked in a bathroom scene when Sally repeatedly interrupts his attempts to shave just as Beth did earlier).

A side note: All the leading players are engaging, but the violinist (played by Theodore Kosloff) who seduces women by making love to their souls steals every scene he is in.

To sum up, this worldly comedy challenges the common assumption that silent film is little more than slapstick or melodrama.

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