Wid’s Daily – Wednesday, January 29, 1919
Griffith Forgets the War and Puts Over a Heart Interest Winner
D. W. Griffith presents “A Romance Of Happy Valley” – Artcraft
- DIRECTOR D. W. Griffith.
- AUTHOR Mary Castleman.
- CAMERAMAN G. W. Bitzer.
- AS A WHOLE Beautiful production filled with human touches, genuine comedy and irresistible heart appeal.
- STORY Simple narrative of country folk; natural up to final sequences which run into some unexpected drama.
- DIRECTION Characteristic of Griffith in perfection of treatment of situations and handling of players.
- PHOTOGRAPHY Flawless
- LIGHTINGS Superb; artistic effects that suggest the paintings of a landscape artist.
- CAMERA WORK On a par with the lightings and photography.
- PLAYERS Lillian Gish, Robert Harron and George Fawcett give notable performances; remainder of cast up to Griffith standard.
- EXTERIORS Couldn’t be better in carrying the atmosphere of a country town.
- INTERIORS Always in the tone of the action.
- DETAIL Shows genius in picking out the trifles that give significance to life.
- CHARACTER OF STORY Refreshing, sympathetic and wholesome.
- LENGTH OF PRODUCTION 590S feet.
The war is over. Griffith has demobilized his soldiers, converted his trenches into corn fields and stacked his guns in an armory. He is back again among simple, peaceful folk whose problems and struggles are in their own hearts. He is doing more superbly than ever, what he has done so surpassingly well in the past. Recall Griffith’s early Biographs: then consider the great advance made in photoplay technique since those days, also the development in the screen impressiveness of such players as Lillian Gish and Bobby Harron; take into account the improvement in the art of the master director, imagine a de-luxe version of one of his little masterpieces, and you will have an idea of the type of picture issued under the title of “A Romance of Happy Valley”.
As an accomplishment in photography, beautifully artistic lightings and settings perfectly in harmony with the story, Griffith has done few things better than several reels of this production. But important as these elements are in making the picture interesting, they are not relied upon to compensate for the lack of other qualities. Using a story that in itself is not extraordinary Griffith has supplied such a wealth of significant incident in the characterizations, that instead of being commonplace parts of the film stand out as a masterpiece of story-telling art through screen impersonation. There have been many scenes in country churches, but don’t recall any with an appeal equal to that dealing with the bringing of Bobby Harron into the fold. It has atmosphere galore and is delightfully played by all the characters, particularly Lillian Gish, as the shy heroine, who prays that the Lord may save her sweetheart from “the devil and New York”. This sequence marks one of the high spots of the film. In its essentials, up to the concluding reels, the plot merely concerns the romance of a little country girl and a farmer boy who longs for the greater opportunity offered in a big city. His family look with dread upon his leaving, as does the girl, who in her compelling way uses simple acts to make him stay on the Kentucky farm. When Bobby goes it is with the understanding that he will return within a year, and each evening the lonesome little Lillian marks off a day. At the end of seven years, with tears in her eyes, she writes herself down an old maid.
Meanwhile Bobby has been working on a toy frog, with the promise that as soon as he makes it swim he will receive $10,000. The struggles of the would-be investor are handed in a way that works up quite a bit of suspense and when the frog actually swims, a real climax in the picture has been reached, in fact a more natural climax than that prepared for a melodramatic ending. During his absence Bobby’s father has lost all his money and events are so arranged that the old farmer portrayed by George Fawcett, is on the point of robbing his own son, on the night he returns with the $10000 and steals unrecognized into the home of his boyhood. The complications in the wind-up are swift and a bit illusive, demanding the closest attention on the part of an audience if they are to be correctly interpreted. At this point, Griffith trusts to suggestion and a quick mental reaction to what transpires on the screen. Whether or not the ending is artistically justifiable in a production of this stamp is debatable, but there can be no question about the excellent quality of the film in its entirety. The romance between Bobby and Lillian, of course, has satisfactory conclusion.
Play it up as a Special and You Can’t Fail to Get Business
Box Office Analysis for the Exhibitor.
Having done about all that there is to do in the way of war dramas, most of your folks probably will be glad to find Griffith following his earlier style. I can’t imagine any audience that appreciates what is worth while in photoplays failing to respond to this, on account of an artistic beauty and human quality such as seldom are realized. It most certainly is worth running for at least half a week, if not a full week, for you will find that your audiences build up as the quality of the picture becomes generally known. Launch as big an advertising campaign as you can afford and take the angle that this is Griffith’s first big production of recent years that has no bearing on the war. It is needless to say that there is no danger of your overplaying the name of the famous producer, in electric lights or through whatever medium you are in the habit of using.
Folks have come to associate the players in this cast with the name of Griffith and although no one of them is billed as a star, several of the names have a star’s drawing power. Publish the cast in full whenever you can, and in instances where you are limited to a few names, use those of Lillian Gish and Robert Harron, promising that they have never done better work than in this film. George Fawcett should not be ignored and some of your old timers will recall Kate Bruce as an important figure in many of the Griffith productions. If you play this at an increased rental don’t bother much about the rest of the show, because it is strong enough to carry any program.