Why Change Your Wife? | Chicago Reader

Why Change Your Wife?

Cecil B. DeMille's trademark mixture of sex and middle-class moralizing was already well in place when he made this 1920 comedy, a sequel to his earlier hit Don't Change Your Husband and, like that film, part of his star-making collaboration with Gloria Swanson. "Angels are often dead husbands, but husbands are seldom live angels," the opening title tells us before introducing Thomas Meighan as an unhappily married man and Swanson as his nagging, joyless wife. ("Why didn't you marry a Turk?" she demands after he comes home bearing a slinky negligee.) When the husband divorces her for a model he met at the dress shop—she's played with scene-stealing effervescence by Bebe Daniels—the wife learns to stop being such a scold, try some more alluring gowns, and cut her man a little slack. Swanson, who got her start doing comedy with Mack Sennett, artfully negotiates the wife's liberal U-turns in the second half, and DeMille accentuates the movie's easygoing tone by initiating its final melodramatic twist with a banana peel tossed in the street.

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