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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Male And Female (1919)

A butler (Thomas Meighan) in the home of a British aristocratic family is in love with the spoiled and haughty eldest daughter (Gloria Swanson). But when the family's yacht gets shipwrecked during a South Seas cruise, the effete aristocrats find themselves helpless and it's up the butler to take over and save the day. Based on the J.M. Barrie play THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON, director Cecil B. DeMille doesn't seem so much interested in Barrie's examination of a social class system as he is in sexual titillation and spectacle. Swanson is seen luxuriating in rose water baths and late in the movie there's a sequence where Meighan and Swanson fantasize being in ancient Babylon with Meighan a King and Swanson a slave girl. Today, the film plays out like a rather more elegant episode of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND but both Meighan and Swanson have likable, strong screen presences and the film is modestly entertaining. With Lila Lee, Robert Cain, Julia Faye, Bebe Daniels, Raymond Hatton and as the head of the family, Theodore Roberts whose shameful mugging sticks out among the naturalistic performances.

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