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Man and Wife

Norma Shearer looking shocked.
April 7, 2024 - 1:30 pm

Admission is free. No advance reservations. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Hammer Museum members will have reserved seating available at the box office. The box office opens one hour before the first program of the day.

Live musical accompaniment by Cliff Retallick.

Man and Wife

U.S., 1923

Los Angeles restoration premiere

Shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey (the East Coast filmmaking hub once known as “Hollywood on the Hudson”), Effanem Productions’ feature-length melodrama Man and Wife boasted an impressive cast for such a modestly budgeted feature. Playing the father, Maurice Costello had long been a star at Vitagraph, appearing in films such as A Tale of Two Cities (1911, also preserved by UCLA). Gladys Leslie, playing the “country sister,” Dolly, had been popular since the late 1910s as a Mary Pickford look-alike once dubbed the “Girl with a Million Dollar Smile.” Norma Shearer had been featured in several episodes of the successful Leather Pushers serial in 1922 with British actor Reginald Denny, and was subsequently offered prominent roles in six low-budget productions shot during a 14-month period — the last of these playing the “city sister,” Dora, in Man and Wife. Soon after production wrapped, legendary producer Irving Thalberg brought her to Hollywood and MGM, where she was to become a major star.

Thematically, Man and Wife explores the perceived dichotomy between the corrupting, deleterious effect of urban living and the bucolic, restorative splendor of country life. The Perkins sisters are a study in contrasts: Dolly thrives in the rural setting of the family farm, while Dora chafes against it and restlessly dreams of a move to the big city. Following an argument with her father, Dora leaves for the beckoning metropolis, sparking a storyline replete with deception, bigamy, madness, and finally, reconciliation. Critical reviews for the picture were mixed, but generally favorable: Moving Picture Review reported that “Man and Wife is not a big picture, but it is honest-to-goodness entertainment,” while Variety declared, “It’s a wild tale, wildly done on the screen, but it has a great element of melodramatic suspense.”—Steven K. Hill

DCP, tinted and toned, 54 min. Director: John L. McCutcheon. Screenwriter: Leota Morgan. With: Maurice Costello, Gladys Leslie, Norma Shearer, Robert Elliott.

Restoration funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation. Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from a 35mm tinted and toned nitrate print. Laboratory services by Roundabout Entertainment, Inc., FotoKem. Special thanks to the Library of Congress.

Special thanks to our community partners: Retroformat Silent Films, The Silent Treatment.