January 23, 2011

Don't Change Your Husband (1919)

This was another charming movie; a comedy about the trials and tribulations of married life.  This movie was chosen because it's the first pairing of Gloria Swanson and Cecil B. DeMille, who went on to do at least five movies together during their respective careers.  In this movie, Swanson plays an unhappy wife named Leila.  She's married to a slob (James Porter) who's addicted to onions and goes to sleep each night with a lit cigar in his hand.  She grows increasingly annoyed with his slovenly ways but never says anything about it except in snide little complaints.

She eventually meets another man, the pretentiously named Schuyler Van Sutphen, who woos her unapologetically, promising her "Pleasure, Wealth, and Love".  Van Sutphen is always clean and dashing looking, and Leila soon comes to think that he's better than her current husband.  She divorces her husband and marries Van Sutphen, who immediately begins to show his true colors as a nasty, cheating, lowlife.

Meanwhile, James has realized what a wonderful person Leila is and how he was a fool to not treat her better and keep her happy.  He sets about to improve himself - working out to get back in shape, giving up the onions, and finding a neater way to smoke his noxious cigars - in an attempt to win her back.  He gets his chance when he runs into Leila one day when she's out shopping.  She wants to get a new suit, so uses a public telephone to call Van Sutphen and ask permission, but Van Sutphen says he can't afford it.  She is about the leave the store sadly, when another woman sits down at the telephone and calls...Van Sutphen!  Yes, he's cheating on Leila with a little floozy known as "Toodles".  Toodles asks for money to buy a new suit and this time Van Sutphen agrees.  Leila is shamelessly eavesdropping during this conversation, but Toodles doesn't realize it.  Just as she's about to leave the store, Leila tells the clerk that she will have the new suit made after all, and to charge it to her husband, Schuyler Van Sutphen.  The look on Toodles' face at this announcement was priceless.

But alas, it didn't faze her in the long run and she continues to see Van Sutphen.  Meanwhile, Leila begins spending time with James again and also realizes how her life was better with James than it is now, and she regrets leaving him for Van Sutphen.  James announces that his home and his name are always available to her.  She divorces Van Sutphen and remarries James and they live happily ever after.  We do get one parting shot of Van Sutphen promising the same "Pleasure, Wealth, and Love" bull to Toodles.  I guess if the schtick works, why change it?

Overall it was a cute movie.  Predictable, but then all romantic comedies are.  The acting was quite good, and there was some interesting visual stuff (tint changes and an elaborate dream sequence).  The movie holds up well for being nearly 100 years old.  I'm actually enjoying all these silent films.  I thought I'd hate them or would be totally lost without dialogue, but it's actually not that hard to follow the story.  I do like talkies better, but it is definitely interesting to broaden my horizons like this.  :)

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