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Don't Change Your Husband/The Golden Chance
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In Don't Change Your Husband, Cecil B. DeMille's first film with Gloria Swanson, Leila Porter (Swanson) tires of her dull nouveau-riche husband (Elliot Dexter) who is inattentive, sloppy and an eater of green onions. She trades him for Schuyler Van Sutphen, a suave but two-timing playboy (Lew Cody), but when she learns Van Sutphen is having an affair with Nanette the maid (Julia Faye), she encourages her now-reformed husband to pursue and remarry her. This edition is digitally mastered from the 35mm preservation negative, tinted according to the original instructions, and features authentic photoplay music performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The drama of a woman who should have changed husbands long before she did, The Golden Chance, almost forgotten today, is one of Cecil B. DeMille's superlative early efforts. Against her family's wishes, beautiful and well-bred Mary (Cleo Ridgeley) has married Steve Denby (H. B. Carpenter), a criminal lout whose alcoholism has reduced the couple to destitution in a one-room slum apartment. Mary finds work as dressmaker to a society woman (Edythe Chapman) who is organizing a dinner party to help her husband close a business deal with an eligible millionaire (Wallace Reid). Transformed like Cinderella, Mary substitutes for a guest who is unable to come at the last minute. This edition is digitally mastered from the 35mm preservation negative, tinted according to the original instructions, and scored with authentic photoplay music compiled and performed by Rodney Sauer.
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By the time of DON'T CHANGE YOUR HUSBAND in 1919 (his first film with Gloria Swanson) DeMille saw the handwriting on the wall and began to adapt his films to the post-WWI style of more entertainment, less commentary as the emergence of the major studios forever turned Hollywood into a big business enterprise where the bottom line became the most important issue although they were less blatant than today's studios about cost over content. Swanson is simply delightful, so fresh and spontaneous, as the wife who changes husbands only to discover that she was better off the first time around. However if she hadn't done that then he wouldn't have made the necessary improvements. The Jazz Age was just ahead and the moral climate was changing. Although dealing with divorce in a playful manner the film dared to show that it was possible (as DeMille had earlier in OLD WIVES FOR NEW which will be coming out soon on DVD) and that notion was still quite shocking in 1919. Elliot Dexter as the husband who transforms himself after realizing what he's lost is totally believable and sympathetic while Lew Cody is the perfect shallow cad whose charm is only on the surface as Gloria eventually discovers. It's a rare opportunity to see Cody as very few of his films have survived. He would eventually marry Mabel Normand in the late 1920's. The music provided by Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Orchestra is first rate and complements both films beautifully. An absolute must for fans of silent movies and a good opportunity to study early DeMille before he became the purveyor of historical extravaganzas. I can't wait for the others to be released.
I thoroughly enjoyed Gloria in this rather realistic yet light-hearted look at married life as the wife who becomes dissatisfied with her husband's sloppy habits and onion breath. When she meets the suave `Mr Perfect' with apparently no bad habits, she `changes husbands' so to speak, only to find that her new choice has far worse habits and characteristics than old Mr Onion-breath, and she finds herself wishing she had rather tried to improve on the few minor faults in her first marriage instead. No doubt there are some subtle lessons to be learned from this simple yet down-to-earth story, but at the same time this film is enjoyable and satisfying to watch, especially with a beautiful classical musical accompaniment.
Made only a few years earlier in 1916, "The Golden Chance" has a different pace and more drama as it focuses on the unhappy life of Mary, married to a drunkard and thief, who gets the chance to marry a millionaire (played by Wallace Reid) when she lands a job for a wealthy couple. This is very much a Cinerella-type story in that Mary is asked by her employer to dress up and take the place of a wealthy socialite one evening, and as you can guess, she meets `prince charming' who has no idea of her real identity and circumstances. There are a few twists and turns in this story until a rather sudden ending, but it keeps up the suspense while emphasising poor Mary's plight. As always, DeMille manages to balance all the qualities of suspense, drama, comedy and visual features, and it's hard for me to choose a favourite. While not perfect, the picture quality of both films on this DVD is very good, and the music for "The Golden Chance" is also a very pleasant classical score by Rodney Sauer. Definitely worth while for Swanson and/or DeMille fans, and also a good choice to sample pre-1920 silent films.