Image Entertainment presents
Don't Change Your Husband / The Golden Chance (1919, 1916)
"Jim, I know it will hurt you—but I can't stand this 'corned beef and cabbage' existence any longer!"- Leila Porter (Gloria Swanson)
Stars: Elliott Dexter, Gloria Swanson, Lew Cody, Cleo Ridgely, Wallace Reid
Other Stars: Julia Faye, Sylvia Ashton, H.B. Carpenter, Ernest Joy, Edythe Chapman, Raymond Hatton
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (thematic material, violence)
Run Time: 02h:33m:10s
Release Date: 2005-10-25
DVD ReviewAlthough Adolph Zukor was initially unwilling to release the then-shocking divorce comedy Old Wives for New (1918), its success made him more than willing to back Cecil B. DeMille's follow-up, Don't Change Your Husband. Taking the theme of divorce of convenience a step further, it also has a sentimental streak a mile wide. And it has the important point in its favor of being the first of numerous collaborations between DeMille and Gloria Swanson.
Leila Porter (Swanson) is getting increasingly unhappy with her marriage to millionaire James Denby Porter (Elliott Dexter). Focused on his business, he pays little attention to Leila and also has an inordinate fondness for eating green onions. Playboy Schuyler Van Sutphen (Lew Cody) sees his opportunity and starts an emotional assault on Leila to win her for his own. Irked by James' blindness and nauseating habits, Leila divorces him to marry Schuyler. But it seems that her new husband may have even worse tendencies than the old one, including a fondness for a pretty gold-digger named Toodles Thomas (Julia Faye).
Swanson was originally supposed to play the romantic lead, Juliet Raeburn, in Old Wives for New, opposite Dexter, but contract issues precluded that casting. Luckily she was loaned out a year later to appear in this picture. Despite coldly chiseled features, she manages a wonderful array of expressiveness without ever going over the top. She is visibly seething at James' habits, displayed only by a slight twitch; her impatience at his inability to see that she is drifting away is palpable with just a nod of her head. She plays Leila sympathetically as well. Even though she makes some questionable choices such as allowing (or even encouraging) Schuyler to flirt with her, it's clear that she desperately wants her husband to see what's going on and show some sign that he cares whether he loses her.
Art director Wilfred Buckland did the designs for many of DeMille's films, but he really outdoes himself here. The Porter home is opulent almost to the point of decadence, silently conveying that money isn't sufficient glue for a marital relationship. In contrast, the spendthrift Schuyler's home is rather spartan, conversely letting us know that lack of money doesn't help either. But Buckland's supreme work is on the canvas of Swanson herself. She appears in one amazing getup after another, from bizarre Orientalia to Jazz Age stylishness (though to be fair, the cover photo depicts her in full regalia as Isolde from a costume ball). Even if you're not interested in the story, there's always something visually of interest each time Swanson appears on the screen.
Dexter is the recipient of the infidelity here, in contrast to Old Wives for New, and at times his reactions don't quite ring true. He seems rather too charitable towards Leila but he does seem to display a sufficient desire for reformation that just makes it credible. Julia Faye is a complete hoot as Toodles, thoughtlessly selfish yet charming and definitely the type of woman who could wheedle a man into bankruptcy, if not prison. Lew Cody's Schuyler is a little too slimy to be plausible as the lead, but he's swept along by la Swanson just like everything else.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame transfer from 35mm preservation negatives generally looks quite good. There is a rich greyscale and plenty of shadow detail. There occasionally seems to be some artificial sharpening going on, with white glowing haloes around some of the characters. Aliasing is common throughout, and it's particularly annoying on an intertitle that features musical staves, which shimmer madly. Wear is present but at quite acceptable levels for a 1919 film. The picture is thoughtfully windowboxed for those with overscan issues.
Image Transfer Grade: B
|DS 2.0||(music only)||no|
Audio Transfer Review: The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra provides suitable compilation scores for both features, and the audio quality is excellent, with very good presence and first rate surround separation. Swanson's ukulele sounds quite good too, a deft little touch that works quite well.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Robert Birchard contributes another set of extensive production notes set in tiny type in the accompanying booklet. One can't help but question their reliability, however, as he launches into a paragraph-long discussion of Schuyler's affair with Nanette the maid and a blackmail plot, none of which appears at all here; either he's confusing films or there's well over a reel missing. Given disc producer David Shepard's track record I certainly presume it's the former and not the latter.
The principal extra is a 1916 feature by DeMille, The Golden Chance. This picture stars Cleo Ridgely as Mary Denby, a judge's daughter who eloped five years ago with Stephen Denby (H.B. Carpenter), but he has now been given to dissolution, drink, and violence. Needing money, she takes a job as seamstress to socialite Mrs. Hillary (Edythe Chapman). Mr. Hillary (Ernest Joy) seeks to conclude a business deal with millionaire Roger Manning (Wallace Reid) through a party to be given at their house. When the female companion selected for Manning, Miss Martin, backs out at the last minute, Mrs. Hillary recruits Mary to masquerade as Miss Martin. Manning quickly becomes enchanted by Mary, leading to complications, especially when Steve decides to rob the Hillary household.
This is nearly as good as the principal feature, which is kind of astonishing when you realize that (at least according to Birchard's notes) it was shot at night by DeMille, simultaneously with the filming of The Cheat during the day. Ridgely makes for a very sympathetic lead, exuding earnest innocence throughout. Reid is decent as the leading man, initially not called upon to do much, though he takes a bit of punishment before the film is over. The ending is rather pat and convenient in one sense, but it's also quite ambiguous. You think you know what happens, but DeMille doesn't spell it out, and the reactions of Reid and Ridgeway hold out the possibility that they might not get together after all. It'd be interesting to read contemporary reviews to see what audiences at the time made of this finale. It's a fascinating melodrama that certainly points the way towards the kinds of marriage-themed pictures that DeMille would be making in the 1920s.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsAlthough billed as a comedy, it's not really laugh-out-loud funny. But Swanson makes a memorable first teaming with DeMille, aided by some outrageous set and costume design. And the bonus feature is worth the price of admission by itself.
Mark Zimmer 2006-01-18