REVISITING CLASSIC GRIFFITH

Rick’s Journal  –  MY FILM CAREER

CLASSIC REVISITED

Orphans of the Storm     D.W. Griffith     1921

Robert E. Sherwood (!) wrote:  “There is scarcely a scene or an effect in the entire production that is not beautiful to look upon, and there is scarcely a moment that is not charged with intense dramatic power.”

There is no accounting for taste.

This was my second viewing of Orphans of the Storm, and I am much less impressed this time.  The story, of two devoted sisters separated during the French Revolution, is implausible and foolish.  Almost all the acting is over-wrought, including that of both Gishes.  In the violently emotional scenes of which there are several and which are always too long, Lillian is embarrassing and unbelievable.  Dorothy, whom increasingly I consider the better actress, is even more over the top here.   Lillian is usually good at sex, and she is excellent in the scene where she grasps the villain’s intentions.  She is rarely as good at love, and she regularly spoils love scenes with what I find myself thinking of as her simper.

Lengthy Griffith never cuts to the chase, but he always get there.  The cross-cutting is excellent here.  If cross-cutting did not originate with Griffith, by this time he owned it and revels in it; but it is diluted by a foregone conclusion.

Griffith through and through:  There is a scene in which our villain’s coach runs over and kills a small child, and he asks if the horses are hurt.  It is an obvious and overdone scene, but it might have been moving had not Griffith inserted a mood-shattering title to inform that it is an actual historical incident.

The script is based on a play.  The Charles Affron biography of Lillian Gish gives the authors as Adolphe D’Ennery and Eugène Cormon.  Variety gives the play title as Les Deux orphalines.

Robert E. Sherwood wrote the cited comment for Life.  It is quoted in Halliwell’s guide.

TCM ALERT

On Saturday October 17 at 10:00 PM (Eastern), Turner Classic Movies offers an opportunity to  see Leslie Howard in his heyday as popular star and critical success.  The Petrified Forest also has Bette Davis in a performance coming between her two Academy Awards and in one of three appearances with Howard.  Humphrey Bogart has the supporting role of a lifetime as Duke Mantee, and he and Howard are excellent together  —  as they will be again the following year (Stand-In).  The Petrified Forest, 1936, is from the play by Robert E. Sherwood and is directed by Archie Mayo.  Tay Garnett directed the two men in Stand-In.

NEXT POST FRIDAY October 23

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick