Brothers De Mille double feature worth viewing
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 12/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is another good quality double-feature DVD of De Mille silent films: the first, "Why Change Your Wife?" directed by the famous Cecil, and the second film on this DVD, "Miss Lulu Bett" directed by Cecil's older brother, William, and both are equally well worth viewing. After enjoying the first release of Cecil B De Mille's three films dealing with marriage, namely "Don't Change Your Husband", I was looking forward to a similar close-to-real-life portrayal of married life with roles reversed in "Why Change Your Wife?" and I was not disappointed. In fact, just as I thought the film was about to end in a very similar fashion as "Don't Change Your Husband", the plot suddenly took an unexpected turn, and although events became rather more unrealistic, it was nevertheless quite suspenseful and enjoyable entertainment. Like the first film which also stars Gloria Swanson, "Why Change Your Wife" has a message and lesson to be learned; this time directed at wives who are too critical and complaining, and more like a `governess' than a sweetheart or lover to her husband. I enjoyed Swanson in her part as the prim and proper wife, as well as Bebe Daniels in her role as `the other woman' with whom the husband can have more fun - at least before he marries her and finds out that wives are all the same! There is a bit of good humour in it all while still getting a true-to-life message across, and Cecil B De Mille handles the plot, attention to certain details and the characters' emotions superbly, as always. Another highlight of this film - and another famous De Mille touch - is the abundance of the lavish and unique women's fashion of 1920 which I found quite fascinating.
Lacking in Cecil's penchant for visually striking sets and costumes is his brother William's production of "Miss Lulu Bett", but more intriguing emotional and family dramas make up for it. In fact, story-wise I even prefer this film to "Why Change Your Wife?" although it's hard to really pick a favourite. In "Miss Lulu Bett" we get quite a stark and realistic look into a dysfunctional family which the daughter and spinster aunt (Miss Lulu) are desperate to escape for various reasons. Not unlike the Cinderella fairytale, poor Miss Lulu, sister of the woman of the house, finds herself treated as a mere housekeeper and slave in the kitchen, teased by her brother-in-law about her lack of suitors. But rest assured, a suitor or two does eventually arrive, and Lulu is forced to face her unhappy family predicament. Quite a different message from "Why Change Your Wife?" but both films focus on women and their problems which, to a large degree, are still relevant in our day. Both films have an excellent, perfectly suited musical score by the Mont Alto Orchestra and the picture quality is very good, though there are a few scratches and flaws in "Miss Lulu Bett".
Samantha Kelley | USA | 06/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Why Change Your Wife? is a nice complement to the other DeMille release Don't Change Your Husband. Both are frivolous films with similar stories. In this film, a husband gets tired of his nagging wife (Gloria Swanson) who wants to be sophisticated more than she wants to have fun. He flees to a young, beautiful model (Bebe Daniels) and marries her but finds that she too has her flaws. In response, the lovesick Swanson does all she can to be her ex's ideal so that she can win him back.
Swanson is again a clotheshorse, but she is also a decipherable character and a lovable one at that. DeMille did remarkably well with these types of films and should have made more. His sophisticated touch makes this 1920s film more advanced than other films of that year.
The second film on this disk is Miss Lulu Bett, a film starring lesser known silent actress Lois Wilson in the title role. She is a sad looking creature who is used in a large family as a maid. When the head of the family gets a visit from his brother, Lulu is treated with respect for the first time in her life. But this man turns out to be detrimental to her. Still, he brings about a positive change in her life and creates an interesting story about a mousy girl who gains confidence.
The family structure is hilariously horrible and there are scenes that honestly depict mundane events of daily life.
The prints for these films are not perfect; artifacts mar the screen. However, the picture is focused and clear, making it very watchable. The music scores are very good and compliment the actions on screen nicely."
A jackpot double feature !!!
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 11/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD gives us an excellent double feature; we get Why Change Your Wife? directed by Cecil B. DeMille and Miss Lulu Bett directed by Cecil's brother William DeMille. Each film has been well restored on DVD and the plot of each movie moves along at a good pace. I never became bored, either.
Why Change Your Wife features the great Gloria Swanson and Thomas Meighan as Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gordon--and boy, is their marriage ever stuck in a rut! Robert Gordon complains, with good reason, that his wife Beth (Gloria Swanson) treats him as if she were his "governess;" she nit-picks on Robert almost constantly. Moreover Beth alienates her husband Robert even further by dressing like a dowdy old aunt and insisting on making Robert sit through classical music when she knows he would much rather go to the "Follies" instead.
One day Robert decides to go buy a new dress for Beth; he hopes this will soften her mood. Instead he rapidly becomes infatuated and wooed by an old girlfriend, Sally Clark (Bebe Daniels). Soon Robert and Beth get a divorce and Robert remarries Sally. Not surprisingly, however, after Robert marries Sally he only then finds out that most if not all wives are the same.
Will Robert stay married to Sally or will he return to Beth? What happens when Beth is free of Robert and she tries to dress more fashionably? No spoilers here--you'll just have to watch the movie to find out!
The second feature on this DVD is entitled Miss Lulu Bett. This is truly a more modern version of the Cinderella story. Lulu (Lois Wilson), the dowdy sister in law of Dwight Deacon (Theodore Roberts), is treated cruelly as a slave; the Deacons think nothing of dumping all the housework on Lulu and Dwight makes fun of Lulu for having no suitors. One day all this changes when on a lark she "pretends" to marry Dwight's brother Ninian Deacon (Clarence Burton). The first week of their marriage seems heavenly--until Lulu's new world comes crashing down when Ninian reveals that his first wife may still be alive and that he and Lulu may not be married after all.
Things are even more complicated. Neil Cornish (Milton Sills) truly does love Lulu and would like nothing more than to marry Lulu for love and not on some silly lark. Trouble lurks even more when Monona Deacon (Mae Giraci) tries to elope with Bobby Larkin (Taylor Graves) and Lulu has to take the heat for Monona to protect Monona.
The movies both have excellent sets and the choreography is well done in fight scenes. The convincing acting always had me glued to the screen; and the cinematography is not bad for the time.
Overall, I highly recommend this double feature DVD for silent film buffs; and fans of Gloria Swanson will love her performance in Why Change Your Wife?
Great job, everyone!"
The Brothers DeMille/de Mille.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 12/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"WHY CHANGE YOU WIFE is the latest Cecil B. DeMille silent film to be released on DVD. It is the last of his marital trilogy and the second to be issued so far (DON"T CHANGE YOUR HUSBAND (1919) and OLD WIVES FOR NEW (1918) are the others). WIFE with Gloria Swanson and Thomas Meighan was filmed in 1920 and follows up on HUSBAND by showing the consequences of rashly discarding your mate (a rather shocking idea back then). As in HUSBAND it takes a divorce for the partners to realize that they were better off together and the rest of the film is spent trying to get back to square one. The fun comes in the transformation of Gloria Swanson from a frumpy intellectual housewife who loses her husband to another woman (Bebe Daniels) into...Gloria Swanson. Her transition occurs so suddenly that you wonder why she didn't do it while she was still married but then you'd have no film. Along the way there are several witty observations on the battle of the sexes indicating that little has changed since 1920. These are punctuated by original title cards that are as priceless for their artwork as for what they have to say. Sales of "Forbidden Fruit", the perfume featured in the film, went through the roof after WIFE's release.
The second half of this double-bill features one of the very few surviving films of Cecil's older brother William deMille (he kept the original family spelling) who started his career as a successful Broadway playwright. One of his plays THE WARRENS OF VIRGINIA from 1907 featured Cecil as an actor and a 15 year old performer named Mary Pickford. MISS LULU BETT was based on the stage version of a then famous book which examined the lonely life of a maiden aunt and her attempts to break free from the stifling enviornment of her sister's family. This is a silent example of what was then called a "woman's picture" which we know today as a "chick flick". It concentrates on plot and slow development of character rather than fast pacing and lots of action. In style it is very similar to the films of Lois Weber especially THE BLOT (also reviewed by me) which came out the same year, 1921, just one year after women received the right to vote. The ensemble performances by the family are all solid with Lois Wilson a standout as the title character. Wilson was a big star for Paramount in the early 1920's later appearing in 1923's THE COVERED WAGON (which still is unavailable on DVD). Although LULU is dated by today's standards, it's fascinating to see just how dated and just how far single women have come since 1921. While I enjoyed WIFE, I have to give the nod here to brother William as I got more out of his film than I expected. Hopefully more of them will become available for us to see."