Dynamic DeMille Double Bill.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 11/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"DON'T CHANGE YOUR HUSBAND/THE GOLDEN CHANCE is the first of at least three double bill DVDs featuring early films by Cecil B. DeMille to be released by David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates and Image Entertaiment and what an inspired choice it is. It provides a rare opportunity to see one of the major filmmakers of Old Hollywood develop and adapt his style to the changing tastes of the public of the time which in turn were influenced by the films being made. THE GOLDEN CHANCE dates from 1915 and is in the mold of DeMille's earlier hard hitting melodrama THE CHEAT. This reworking of the Cinderella story in which an abused wife (Cleo Ridgely) is given the opportunity to be someone else in order to deceive a rich investor (Wallace Reid) is loaded with pungent social commentary as were many films from that era of filmmaking. Movies could entertain and make observations of contemporary society at the same time and the great early filmmakers in America like Porter, Griffith, and DeMille did just that. Although the film has the expected "happy ending" it nevertheless leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and remains food for thought 90 years later.
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."
A very good early Cecil B DeMille double feature
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 11/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having enjoyed some of Cecil B DeMille's early work such as "Manslaughter" (1922) and in particular "The Cheat" (1915), I was looking forward to this DeMille double feature and I am certainly not disappointed. Both films have the DeMille trademark qualities of visually satisfying and often exotic sets, costumes and lighting, as well as a certain smooth style overall. DeMille also knew how to choose his cast, such as Wallace Reid - a very popular star in the late teens - in "The Golden Chance" and of course, Gloria Swanson in "Don't Change Your Husband", the first of six films she made with DeMille.
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.
Marital strife the DeMille way
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 08/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before he became known for his epics, Cecil B. DeMille was really good at lighthearted films like these, spotlighting a married couple facing problems and how they come to a resolution of those problems. And while there is a bit of moralising going on, that doesn't totally overwhelm the proceedings. One gets the message through the actions of the characters more than from any preachy intertitles.
Though neither of these two films could be considered classics, I preferred 'Don't Change Your Husband.' Gloria Swanson is so charming and natural as the bored dissatisfied young wife Leila, Elliot Dexter is very good as her husband James, who doesn't realise how much he's alienated his wife, and Lew Cody is good as the rakish upstart Schuyler who seduces Leila away from her husband. Just like with DeMille's similar films 'Why Change Your Wife?' and 'Old Wives for New,' the moral of the story here is to avoid settling into a dull routine and letting yourself go just because you've married your sweetheart. While it's usual to relax and even slack off a little bit once you no longer have to constantly worry about keeping this person's romantic and personal interest before there's been a proposal, it should never be so severe as it is in this film. The man Leila fell in love with and married wasn't a man who forgot their anniversary, had onion breath, smoked cigars so much, and took her for granted so much that he didn't even think another man could sneak into her heart! Of course, Leila discovers that no man is perfect and that this new husband comes with his own set of problems, problems even worse than James's bad habits. There's a wondeful soundtrack by the Mont Alto Orchestra, a lot better than the repetitive one used on the version on the Gloria Swanson boxed set. And if I remember correctly, the version on the boxed set ends right after James tells Leila his home and name are waiting for her if she changes her mind. The ending no longer seems so abrupt here, since there are at least ten more minutes after that scene, and all of the loose ends are tied up!
'The Golden Chance' wasn't that memorable for me, and there were spots I found a bit boring or slow-moving. I suppose films from this early in the history of the feature-length film are an acquired taste. Mary is a judge's daughter who thought with her heart and not her head by running away to marry her boyfriend Steve, who is far below her socioeconomic class. Five years later, they're living deep in poverty, and they don't even have love to bear these troubled times together, since Steve turned out to be an abusive alcoholic jerk (perhaps in response to their dire circumstances, though that doesn't excuse domestic abuse and criminal behavior). Behind her husband's back, Mary goes to work as a seamstress for a very wealthy family, and ends up playing Cinderella. While she's working there, a guest (a very young and handsome pre-accident Wallace Reid) becomes very taken with her, and, it being the movies, falls in love at first sight and already wants to marry her after only meeting her a couple of times. Things take a turn for the worse when Steve finds out what Mary's been up to and tries to take criminal revenge. Perhaps because this was only made in 1915, there are a bunch of plot holes, and a rather abrupt and dramatic ending. It does though do a good job at depicting how the other half lives, and the relations between the different classes in an era when society was a lot more classist than it still is today."