here, for example), one of the best and most influential of the silent era directors.
If you know him only from his bloated Bible epics of the 1950s, you're probably wondering what all the fuss is about. But the fact is, beginning in 1918 with Old Wives For New, DeMille reeled off a series of "nervously brilliant, intimate melodramas" and "sly marital comedies" (Scott Eyman, Empire of Dreams) centering on the notion that grown ups engage in sexual relations and are glad that they do.
Ah, sophisticated sex comedies—God bless 'em. Here are three by DeMille to bring you up to speed:
Old Wives for New (1918)—In the first of his sex comedies, DeMille dispense with karma and moral judgment, and puts the fun back into sex, sin and every kind of bad behavior. People drink, lie, carouse and generally defy social mores, and not only suffer no consequences, they prosper. Murder goes unpunished, adultery is rewarded and divorce is presented as a sane and sophisticated solution to an unhappy marriage. Starring Elliott Dexter, Florence Vidor and Theodore Roberts.
Male and Female (1919)—DeMille added a young Gloria Swanson to the mix and both of their careers really took off. Basically, the cast of Downton Abbey gets shipwrecked on a desert island, with Swanson as a upper crust nitwit and Thomas Meighan as her butler. Of course, only the servants possess any useful survival skills. Upstairs is down, downstairs is up, in this sophisticated satire of the British class system. Also featuring Theodore Roberts and Bebe Daniels.
The Affairs of Anatol (1921)—Maybe the most famous of DeMille's comedies. Here, a bored husband (All-American heartthrob Wallace Reid) looks to spice up his love life with a series of what turn out to be disastrous affairs. By the time he returns to his senses, his wife (Swanson again) has embarked on an affair of her own. With Bebe Daniels (as Satan Synne!), Elliott Dexter and Theodore Roberts.