In addition to the amazing circus this weekend, I also went to see the silent film “Changing Husbands” (1924) at the Music Box. It was a hoot! It was nice to branch out from my standard comedians, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin.
The basic premise of this convoluted film is that Mrs. Evans, a wealthy married woman, goes to New York City to get acting out of her system. Her husband agrees not to visit her during the time and when the time is up, the woman is to return to his quiet life. Unsurprisingly, she finds that the city isn’t clamoring for her. But she also keeps getting mistaken for another actress, a Miss Graham. Mrs. Evans accidently ends up at a rehearsal of Miss Evans who is struggling and unhappy with acting and city life. Mrs. Evans concocts a scheme where they switch places for a few months. And hijinks ensue.
Leticia Joy plays both woman and she really does an excellent job of making them two separate characters. The wealthy Mrs. Evans is a bit evil and awesome. When you first meet her, she is in an incredible outfit with an elaborate head piece while a prince paints flowers on her legs. Quite a bit racy even for now! On the other hand, Miss Graham is demure and quiet. You sympathize for her but she’s a bit of a bore. The movie has a wonderful chase scene with an axe, a car chase, and a cross-eyed owl. One actress, Zasu Pitts, plays Mrs. Evans’ maid and she is brilliant. She has these incredibly large eyes, perfect for the silent screen.
One scene stuck out to me in particular because of audience response. At one point, Mr. Evans ends up in NY and takes the poor Miss Graham (pretending to be Mrs. Evans) home with his mother. In one scene, Miss Graham and Mr. Evans are verging on a sweet kiss. Behind me, a lady whispered, “Adulterer.” I love it!
There is some awkwardness with respect to gender though. The basic premise of the movie is based on the interchangeability of women. Even if two women are completely different in personality, they are interchangeable if they look alike. It’s a device for comedy but its not a new concept. In Victorian era, girls and women were expected to have the same qualities: quiet, kind, selfless, etc. Individual preferences and personality were not a consideration. Moreover, girls and women were even dressed the same as their sisters.
Anyway, it’s still a funny film and I’d recommend seeing it if you can.