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Why Change Your Wife?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why Change Your Wife?
Poster - Why Change Your Wife 01.jpg
Film poster
Directed byCecil B. DeMille
Produced byCecil B. DeMille
Jesse L. Lasky
Written bySada Cowan
Olga Printzlau
Story byWilliam C. DeMille
StarringGloria Swanson
CinematographyAlvin Wyckoff
Edited byAnne Bauchens
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • May 22, 1920 (1920-05-22)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
English intertitles
Box office$1 million[1]
Why Change Your Wife?

Why Change Your Wife? is a 1920 American silent comedy film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Gloria Swanson.[2]


Frumpy wife Beth devotes herself to bettering her husband's mind and expanding his appreciation for the finer things in life, such as classical music. When he goes shopping at a lingerie store to buy some sexier clothes for her, he meets Sally, the shop girl. Rejected by his wife for a night out on the town, he takes Sally, who douses him with her perfume. When Beth smells another woman's perfume, she kicks him out and files for divorce.

Beth's Aunt Kate takes her shopping to get her mind off of her broken heart. While in the dress shop, Beth overhears women gossiping about how her dull appearance led to her losing her husband. She determines to "play their game" and gets a new "indecent" wardrobe. Meanwhile the manipulative Sally convinces the dejected Robert to marry her. He finds that his second wife annoys him as much as his previous one.

Later the couple and their dog end up at the same luxury hotel where divorcee Beth is strutting her stuff. She tries to seduce Robert, but he resists. Each of them quickly leaves the situation, but they meet again on a train. As they're walking away from the station, Robert slips on a banana peel. When the police arrive on the scene, Beth identifies Robert as her husband and takes him home. Doctors say he is to be kept quiet for 24 hours.

The two women argue over whether Sally will move Robert against doctor's orders. Beth locks the three of them into the bedroom, which leads to a physical struggle over the key during which Sally breaks a mirror, inviting seven years' bad luck. Beth threatens to burn Sally's face with acid, which leads to a stalemate. The three stay in the room until Robert's crisis is over. A doctor pronounces him healthy, but Robert refuses to go home with Sally. Sally throws the vial of acid on Beth's face only to discover that Beth was bluffing; the vial contained only eye wash.

Sally leaves but not before taking the cash from Robert's pants pockets and declaring that the best thing about marriage is alimony.

The final scenes show the remarried Robert and Beth in their home. Beth dresses up in more revealing clothes and replaces the classical recording on her Victrola with a record of the foxtrot. Sally has taken up with a violin player. The intertitle that ends the film reassures ladies that their husbands would prefer them as sweethearts, and reminds them to make sure they remember, from time to time, to "forget" being a wife.


Gloria Swanson in a production still from the film
Gloria Swanson in a production still from the film


In Pennsylvania, the state film censor board made 22 cuts before the film could be passed for exhibition.[3]

Preservation status

A 35mm print of this film exists at the George Eastman House film archive.[4]


  1. ^ a b Birchard, Robert S. (2004). Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. p. 120. ISBN 0-813-12324-0.
  2. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: Why Change Your Wife?". Silent Era. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
  3. ^ Walsh, Frank. Sin and Censorship. Yale University Press, 1996. p. 24
  4. ^ SilentEra entry

External links

This page was last edited on 30 October 2019, at 10:16
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