(1919)4.5Janiss GarzaThe star of this adaptation of James M. Barrie's The Admirable Crichton isn't Gloria Swanson, nor is it Thomas Meighan. And it certainly isn't James M. Barrie. Male and Female's one and only star is its director, Cecil B. DeMille. His personality dominates every frame, and the film is a good illustration of both DeMille's virtues and his faults (at least during this particular era of his career). While film historians always mention the pointless but picturesque Babylon dream sequence, the whole picture, really, is pure DeMille fantasy, from the elaborate bath scene near the beginning to the Robinson Crusoe-like island home created by Crichton, the butler (Meighan). DeMille tells his (not Barrie's) tale of how nature levels the classes in a florid and witty style that is quite amusing. Critics of the day noted, however, that the film was cold at its center, and they were right. DeMille doesn't seem to extend much sympathy to his lead characters, and often the actors' performances suffer. Swanson, in particular, seems hard to grasp -- she's more of a "type" than a real human being. Perhaps that's because she was only 20 when she made this film, and had only just achieved stardom. Meighan, an older, more experienced actor, gives some warmth to his role, and as the scullery maid, Lila Lee does well -- though her role is so long-suffering and one-dimensional that she didn't need do very much. DeMille's specialty wasn't making actors look good; it was glorifying his own personal vision. That he does here, with humor and a more than a bit of pomposity. But Male and Female is so fascinating in its overblown uniqueness that its faults can be forgiven.