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Old Wives for New (1918)

Not Rated | | Drama | 19 May 1918 (USA)
Charles Murdock neglects his fat and lazy wife in favor of Juliet Raeburn but, when Juliet's name is involved in murder, he marries Viola and takes her to Paris.


Cecil B. DeMille


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Complete credited cast:
Elliott Dexter ... Charles Murdock
Florence Vidor ... Juliet Raeburn
Sylvia Ashton Sylvia Ashton ... Sophy Murdock
Wanda Hawley ... Sophy in Prologue
Theodore Roberts ... Tom Berkeley
Helen Jerome Eddy ... Norma Murdock
Marcia Manon Marcia Manon ... Viola Hastings
Julia Faye ... Jessie
J. Parks Jones J. Parks Jones ... Charley Murdock
Edna Mae Cooper Edna Mae Cooper ... Bertha
Gustav von Seyffertitz ... Melville Bladen
Tully Marshall ... Simcox
Lillian Leighton ... Maid
Mayme Kelso ... Housekeeper
Alice Terry ... Saleslady (as Alice Taafe)


Charles Murdock neglects his fat and lazy wife in favor of Juliet Raeburn but, when Juliet's name is involved in murder, he marries Viola and takes her to Paris. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

based on novel | See All (1) »




Not Rated






Release Date:

19 May 1918 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hustru - Moder - Elskerinde See more »


Box Office


$66,241 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Tom Berkeley: [after he has been shot] She didn't do it - it was the little one! This must be hushed up, Charlie - damn it all, my reputation *must* be saved!
See more »


Referenced in Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

"To the death of Memory"
6 September 2008 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

Old Wives for New has been labelled as a departure for DeMille, specifically the point at which he lost his "integrity" to embrace pure commercialism. This is not quite the case. For a start, DeMille had been unashamedly commercial since the day he stepped on to the set of The Squaw Man (his debut feature). What's more this film and the ones after it were still made with intelligence and style.

It is true that this is a particularly sensationalist piece, which came straight after one of DeMille's deepest and most poignant dramas, The Whispering Chorus, so perhaps the perception of Old Wives for New was more one of contrast than a clear break. Changes were indeed taking place in the old DeMille technique around this period, although the process had already begun at the time of The Whispering Chorus. The biggest change was that the films were becoming wordier. Each act is introduced with a lengthy, quasi-philosophical mini-essay. These were the work of DeMille's longtime collaborator (and mistress) Jeanie Macpherson, an excellent dramatic storyteller but not quite the poet she thought she was. The individual scenes are also broken up by far more "speech" titles than are necessary.

Still, DeMille never lost his flair for captivating images, and Macpherson never lost her skill at weaving drama, and there are plenty of touches of brilliance here. Each player is introduced as a pair of hands, their actions revealing their character. DeMille also works harder than ever before to visualise the characters' thoughts – cutting in shots of Florence Vidor when Elliot Dexter is thinking of her, for example.

The acting is so-so here, and to be honest there are not many scenes where the actors actually get the chance to show off their talents. This again is the fault of all those intertitles, plus dozens of inserts which DeMille also overused during this period. An honourable mention however goes to Theodore Roberts, who played dozens of roles for DeMille, from English aristocrats to Moses. He was very versatile so long as he got to ham it up. His highlight in Old Wives for New is a melodramatic murder sequence which sums up everything about the DeMille/Macpherson partnership – straining credibility to breaking point, yet executed with grand theatricality.

Although the wordiness of Old Wives for New does seem like a burden, I should point out that there aren't any more intertitles than the average Hollywood picture from this period – it's just that until recently DeMille had been a master of the long, unbroken take, and had barely used title cards. This change brought him more in line with his contemporaries. At this point in cinema history, the camera still did not move very much, so filmmakers aimed to bring drama to life through editing patterns – inserts, reverse angles and of course titles. The long shot in drama was dying out, and it would be a while before a new generation of directors – people like George Cukor and William Wyler – would revive it in the sound era.

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