Why Change Your Wife? (1920)

After a decade of marriage, Robert Gordon (Thomas Meighan) begins to realize that his wife Beth (Gloria Swanson) just isn’t the same woman he married.  She’s dowdy (yes, Gloria Swanson is the dowdy one here), preachy, and is always trying to force her more cultured tastes upon Robert.  Not willing to give up on their marriage just yet, Robert tries to liven things up by buying something nice and vampy for Beth.  Robert is pretty hilariously uncomfortable in the lingerie store, but he does meet Sally (Bebe Daniels), one of the store’s models, while he’s there.  Beth isn’t too happy about Robert’s gift and when she’d rather listen to a violinist than accompany him to the Ziegfeld Follies, Robert decides to invite Sally to go with him to the Follies.  Of course, Beth isn’t stupid, and when Robert comes home smelling of Sally’s perfume, she decides she wants a divorce.

After the divorce, Beth’s aunt takes her shopping to make her feel better.  However, they wind up at the same store that Sally works in and Beth overhears some of the models gossiping about how her lack of style is what must have caused the divorce.  Not willing to take this laying down, Beth decides then and there to spice up her image.  While things are looking up for Beth, they’re not looking as good for Robert.  He went ahead and married Sally, but is finding out that Sally can be just as annoying as Beth was.  Robert, Sally and Beth all run into each other when they all wind up being on vacation at the same resort together.  By now, Beth has truly become the life of the party and Robert definitely notices the change and likes what he sees.  Beth also realizes that she misses Robert, too.  Each of them wants to rekindle their relationship, but Robert is hesitant.

Later, Robert and Beth meet again on a train.  As they’re leaving the train, Robert slips on a banana peel and hits his head.  When doctors arrive, Beth tells them that she is his wife and they bring him to her place so he can lay still for twenty-four hours.  Beth calls Sally and the two of them get into a fight over Sally wanting to move Robert to their place.  But Beth wins that fight and when it becomes clear that Robert’s going to be just fine, he realizes that it’s Beth he wants, not Sally.

I really enjoyed Why Change Your Wife.  For a Cecil B. DeMille movie, this is a pretty small-scale movie, but it’s still great.  The cast is fantastic, I especially got a kick out of seeing Gloria Swanson as the uptight, plainly dressed one.  But of course, sticking Gloria Swanson in a conservative outfit is sort of like how in newer movies, they have nerds played by gorgeous actors who just happen to be wearing glasses.  I also really loved the intertitles, they were very sharply written.  It’s sort of hard to call silent movies “quotable,” but it’s hard to resist wanting to go around saying stuff like, “You know, the more I see of men, the better I like dogs,” or, “When a girl can wear a bathing suit like this, it is her duty to do so!”  It’s a very fun movie to watch.

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