Wednesday, July 5, 2017

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2016) by Year - 0234 - MISS LULU BETT (William C. de Mille, 1921, USA, 71m, BW)



(William C. de Mille, 1921, USA, 71m, BW)


MISS LULU BETT (William C. de Mille, 1921, USA, 71m, BW)

Cast: Lois Wilson, Milton Sills, Theodore Roberts, Ethel Wales, Taylor Graves, Mae Giraci, May Giraci, Helen Ferguson, Clarence Burton, Charles Ogle, Mabel Van Buren
Director: William De Mille, William C. DeMille
Writer: Clara Beranger
Rating: NR
Running Time: 71 min.


A once-timid young woman gains newfound confidence after a failed marriage, much to the chagrin of her miserable family.


This film was directed by Cecil B. De Mille's older brother William, and is one of only a couple of films that he made that still survives. (The only other that I'm aware of is The Secret Game (1917) which is available on World War I Films of the Silent Era.)

Lulu Bett (Lois Wilson) is a spinster. In her late 20's or early 30's, the timid lady has moved in with her sister, Diana (Helen Ferguson), and brother-in-law, Dwight (Theodore Roberts). In their home she cooks and cleans and keeps house for her room and board. Little more than a slave, Lulu trudges through life until Dwight's brother Ninian (Clarence Burton) shows up one day. Ninian takes a shine to the frumpy Lulu, and while they are at dinner, he pretends to marry the girl. 

Dwight, seeing a way to get Lulu out of his house, declares that the gag wedding is binding, and he should know, he's a Justice of the Peace. Ninian's happy with the situation and Lulu decides to go along with it to get out of her sister's household even though she doesn't love her groom. Things turns sticky soon though. No one realized that Lulu was the glue that keeps her sister's dysfunctional family going. Without her, things soon turn to anarchy, with comic results.

Though William deMille (he always spelled the 'de' with a lower case 'd') was greatly overshadowed by him younger brother, this films shows that he was a talented director in his own right. This dramatic comedy has a lot of charm to it, and it's presents a much more realistic look at life than Cecil's grand spectacles.

Lois Wilson does a very good job in the title role, breathing life into the role when she's an unattractive scullery maid and a fashionable and independent woman. Her transformation seem plausible and real. She really makes the film. Though the synopsis make this sound like a melodrama, the film is actually fairly light. There are many comical moments to break up the drama, and these work well. 


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