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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cinema Spotlight-1920's Why Change Your Wife

For this cinema spotlight an early silent screen gem by legendary director Cecil B. Demille, 1920s Why Change Your Wife.  

This  silent comedy made in 1920  stars Gloria Swanson of Sunset Boulevard fame as the mousy and serious Beth Gordon.   

Beth wears simple, modest dresses, like the white one shown above.  Supposedly she has no fashion sense but personally I'd love a dress like it.

In addition to her plain wardrobe Beth sports spectacles and is deadly serious.
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 Her idea of marriage involves forever trying to improve her husband Robert: lecturing to him on music and morals, forbidding him alcohol, lamenting his taste for jazz

and worst of all criticizing his dog, an adorable all American Pitbull.

Robert, baffled as the title card says "by the strange difference between his wife and the girl he married, " decides to cheer her up with a little gift.  He happens upon a fancy clothing shop packed to the brim with deco delights, like these amazing shoes,

and amazingly detailed robes and lounge wear, reminiscent of fashion designer Paul Poiret's over the top oriental influenced designs.

It so happens that working at the shop is young Sally Clark, who grew up in the same town as Robert and  has long harbored a crush on him.  After laying eyes on her prize Sally determines to convince Robert to change his wife.

Meanwhile Robert goes home, elaborate negligee in hand, eager to give Beth her present.

Beth however is not pleased with her girt.

A disappointed Robert, fed up with his dowdy, recriminating wife, is thus left vulnerable to the wiles of calculating shop girl, Sally.  Sally stops by Robert's office ostensibly to give him a piece of the negligee that he left behind in the shop, but really in order to convince him to attend the theatre with her.  They do and afterwards Robert is finagled into accompanying Sally home to her apartment.  There she lays on all her charms, from her decadent clothes to her love or ragtime.

A guilty Robert returns home to Beth, but she discovers his indiscretion 

 and throws him and the dog out.

Robert winds up in the arms of Sally and Beth's aunt tries to sooth her broken heart with a shopping binge.  While shopping Beth's aunt tells her that their female acquaintenances pity her because her plain Jane appearance and seriousness lost her, her husband.  Beth decides to show them, and thus begins what is perhaps the first example of a cinematic staple, the mousey heroines metamorphosis into a glamorous fashion plate.

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Meanwhile Robert's new union with Sally is going no better then is first.   Sally has a taste for money and fine things and her cat

and his dog are not getting along.

Sally convinces Robert to take her to a fancy hotel where Beth also happens to be staying.  Robert runs into her at the hotel pool where she is flaunting her new bathing suit

Robert is most impressed by the new glamorous Beth, who also happens to be
newly fond of dogs:

By the end of the film it is revealed who has Robert's best interests at heart, and it isn't Sally.  A reunited Robert, Beth, and dog are shown enjoying an evening of domestic bliss complete with deco fashion and cocktails!

Why Change Your Wife?  may be a more then a bit antiquated in its attitudes towards women, but if you love history, deco fashion, or dogs you couldn't find a better silent film.


  1. Love how you laid this out for us! I just watched Sunset Boulevard the other night.

  2. The age old problem of marrying someone and then wanting to change them...bwahaahaa!

    But we say whoever...must love dogs!

    XXXOOO Bella & Roxy

  3. Scotsmad is so right ... an age old story but LOL we too love looking at the fashion etc etc.
    Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

  4. So enjoyed this post. I have a few Valentino flicks, but that's about it. VERY well done article.

  5. Thanks for sharing on Sepia Saturday. Wait a minute...did he say that he was throwing his dog OUT? WHATTTTT.

  6. I really need to watch some of the oldies.. I use to watch Fred and Ginger LOL, Shirley Temple and my favourite, what ever happened to baby Jane, see I do know some oldies. Love you header xxoxxxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  7. I enjoyed the story a lot! Glad it was a happy ending :-)
    Oh, those shoes are gorgeous!


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