BATTLE OF THE SEXES (1928). Directed by D. W. Griffith.
Griffith’s cinematic and sensitive direction, plus the splendid playing of the leads, makes this a not-quite-classic story of how a man’s family suffers when he moves out and moves in with a trampy gold-digger. Two sequences especially stand out: when the family comes upon the husband and his mistress dancing in a club, and his wife is so devastated she can barely walk. And a frightening, suspenseful sequence when the wife totters near the edge of the roof of her building, contemplating suicide, the streets a very alarming number of floors below. (You get the impression that the actress is in as much danger as the character she’s portraying.) There are melodramatic complications, and the ending is way too pat – the husband forgiven much too quickly – and the characterizations fairly superficial, but this is still rather effective silent move-making and it does hold the attention. Jean Herscholt (the husband) is excellent, along with the rest of the cast: Belle Bennett (wife); Sally O’Neil (daughter Ruth); William Bakewell (son Billy). While Phyllis Haver, who plays home wrecker Marie, is certainly no raving beauty, she does exude a sexy personality and plays well. A chamber orchestra provides an interesting new score.