Sat 30 Apr 2011
THE HOME MAKER. Universal, 1925. Alice Joyce, Clive Brook, Billy Kent Schaefer, Martha Mattox, Virginia True Boardman, Jacqueline Wells (later known as Julie Bishop). Scenario by Mary O’Hara, from the novel by Dorothy Canfield. Director: King Baggot. Shown at Cinecon 44, Hollywood CA, Aug-Sept 2008.
The subject of this film — a reversal of roles in which the husband stays home and takes care of the children — was probably an unusual one in 1925, one that was apparently reflected (according to reviews quoted in the program notes) in the hostility in at least some of the reviews to the husband’s role.
He’s portrayed as almost terminally bored by his office job and when he’s passed over for a promotion and then, as in everything else, fails at a suicide attempt that leaves him a cripple, he welcomes the opportunity to stay at home while his wife, taking a low-level job in the womens’ wear factory run by his former company, quickly shows herself to be a gifted manager, soon promoted to a position and salary her husband could only have dreamed of.
This domestic drama might initially seem to have been lifted from the pages of one of the slick womens’ magazines of the period, but it sheds that formulaic corset, impressing by its crisp direction, fine acting and unsentimental treatment of a then controversial subject.
It should be noted that two distinguished women writers were credited for the source and scenario for the film. Dorothy Canfield (Fisher) is probably best known for her children’s classic Understood Betsy, while Mary O’Hara was the author of the bestselling My Friend Flicka, turned into a successful film by MGM starring Roddy MacDowell (and, of course, a horse).