Directed by: Lois Weber
Starring: Louis Calhern, Claire Windsor, Phillips Smalley, Mona Lisa
Before making movies became almost exclusively a “man’s game,” Lois Weber was writing and directing movies—even feature-length ones—that were on a par with much of the best work being turned out by her male counterparts. This is largely true of her 1921 production, Too Wise Wives. No, this tale of two marriages—reflections of each other—in peril isn’t exactly earthshaking drama. The film does, however, offer a surprisingly sophisticated approach to presenting the story. More surprising, however, is the complexity in her handling of the medium. American film at the time—Griffith notwithstanding—had a marked tendency to nail the camera down and grind away. While Weber’s camera can’t quite be called fluid, neither is it static, and the shot breakdown is fairly elaborate.
Of even greater interest is Weber’s ability to frame her shots in a variety of creative ways, using the architecture of her sets (or locations in a number of instances) to enhance the drama, or at least break up the visual monotony that was the lot of a great many silent films. Her choice of camera angles is also unusual and forward thinking for the time. The biggest problem with the film lies in the story, which is apt to seem a little tedious to a modern audience. As a result, Too Wise Wives is probably of greater interest to film fans interested in the history of movies than to those interested in casual viewing. On a historical level, however, it’s of considerable significance.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show Too Wise Wives at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to the Lake Point Landing entrance and park in the lot on the left.)