Idle Wives (1916)

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This picture, made by husband-and-wife team Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber (both of whom starred), was based on the book by James Oppenheim. It's got a film-within-a-film motif -- a married couple are drifting apart, and when the husband goes out, the wife trails him. She watches as he meets another woman and follows them into a movie house. The picture that is being shown -- entitled "Life's Mirror," and starring Weber -- has something to teach the three of them (and several other motion picture patrons). After seeing their problems depicted on screen, the husband and wife are reunited, while the other woman goes away; and a shop girl who has snuck off with her sweetheart wises up when she sees a girl on screen in a similar situation wind up in a home for unwed mothers. This type of storytelling, a bit preachy and heavy-handed with its moral, was typical of Weber and Smalley's approach. Interestingly, when screened in New York, the theater carried the warning "Children under sixteen years of age not admitted," even though there wasn't anything particularly objectionable or atypical about its subject matter -- perhaps this was just a publicity ploy.