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Catch MAN AND WIFE at the UCLA Festival of Preservation

Norma Shearer goes mad in Man and Wife (1923), preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Early April brings the return of the biennial UCLA Festival of Preservation, showcasing UCLA Film & Television Archive's latest preservation and restoration projects on the big screen. All screenings are free, and on April 7 attendees will have the opportunity to see the short feature Man and Wife (1923), preserved through a Roger Mayer Legacy Grant administered by the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Directed by John L. McCutcheon and starring Norma Shearer and Maurice Costello, Man and Wife was an independent production filmed in Fort Lee, New Jersey, known in the silent era as “Hollywood on the Hudson.” The film’s exuberantly melodramatic plot, involving secret identities, a character returning from the dead, insanity, and bigamy, caused Motion Picture News to complain “the author of this story has allowed his imagination to run riot.” Variety called the film “a wild tale, wildly done on the screen, but it has a great element of melodramatic suspense.” It also noted “a screen possibility in Norma Shearer.”

Man and Wife was the sixth feature Shearer in which had played a prominent role. By the time it was released she had received an offer from Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg (her future husband) to go to Hollywood, where she would become one of MGM’s biggest stars. Shearer’s biographer Gavin Lambert called her performance in Man and Wife “at once vivid and subtle,” its keynote being “the reality she brings to totally unreal material.” The only surviving copy of the film—a complete tinted and toned nitrate print—was preserved by UCLA last year and enjoyed a successful debut at the 2023 San Francisco Silent Festival. It will now grace the big screen in Los Angeles, for the first time since its premiere a century ago.

Tags: silent film, screenings

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