In scene after scene, Old Wives for New (1918) must have startled its original audiences. The "old" wife, grown fat and slovenly, eats bonbons and reads the Bible while ignoring her family. The "new" wife is no innocent flower but a successful, independent businesswoman. An old roue leaves his own wife at home while he dallies with young gold diggers who have a most casual attitude toward their unconventional lifestyles. The film even suggests divorce as a possible solution to "irreconcilable differences" in marriage. This film so shocked Paramount's head, Adolph Zukor, that he was opposed to releasing it at all (but relented when a test screening proved it would make money). In fact, it created a sensation and led directly to the social comedies director Cecil B. DeMille made in the early 1920s. With this film DeMille closed the door on "the innocent years" and ushered in "the jazz age."
The Whispering Chorus (1917) was a revolutionary psychological drama when first released -- noted for its multiple exposures representing the whispering chorus of a criminal's conscience. The film also features dramatic parallel editing used to explore character rather than merely to heighten tension in a chase. Through the years The Whispering Chorus developed a misplaced reputation as an artistic triumph but a box-office failure. It has been said that DeMille's disappointment with its reception pushed him from artistry to popular pandering. However, recent research demonstrates that the film was in fact a commercial success, and its thematic concerns continued to motivate DeMille's later work.
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