A Timely Interception (1913) Biograph

A Timely Interception - Lillian Gish Biograph
A Timely Interception – Lillian Gish Biograph

A Timely Interception (1913)

Some of Lillian’s February and March movies were no more demanding of her ability and potential than those she made in 1912. In The House of Darkness, a drama about “divided minds” starring Claire McDowell, Lillian makes brief appearances as a nurse whose piano-playing calms a violent “lunatic.” Her contribution goes no further than looking pretty, smiling, and fingering the keyboard. A Misunderstood Boy, Just Gold, and A Timely Interception required something more.

Lillian’s role in A Timely Interception is somewhat richer. Bobby Harron is again the love interest, and the couple is first shown in an idealized pastoral streamside setting. Moments later, after learning that they will be permitted to marry, they exchange one of Griffith’s patented chaste kisses, behind a door. When the wedding is postponed, Lillian displays anger, then bursts into tears. She accomplishes these acting duties with no more than the dispatch they deserve.

Despite her protestations, over the years, that acting could not be taught, Lillian also felt that she had much to learn about acting for the movies. “I had only to see what a bad actress I was in a few pictures to lose all my snobbishness. I wanted to learn about this new kind of acting and I was a pupil in a good school.” She learned by watching others. She practiced how to convey different emotions by the way she walked and ran, how to vary her expressions and her body language depending on the distance between her and the camera. She also had to cure herself of shyness. “I knew I had to overcome it as I had no footlights to shield me from curious eyes of onlookers.

“I have a great interest in and generally like people but crowds then and now hold a genuine terror for me. So I know only by complete concentration could I ever carry my fourth wall with me.” (Lillian Gish)

Concentration put Lillian in touch with the emotions that she was then, without inhibition, able to exteriorize. She described one technique for achieving great focus: “I’d put a salt cellar on the mantelpiece or table in my room. Just try watching a salt cellar with nothing else on your mind! It’s not easy.” Billy Bitzer remembered, “Griffith conditioned her to the part she was to play, and once she had the action in mind, she wouldn’t forget or deviate by so much as a flicker of the eye. Her interpretation would be as directed, without waste of previous film; standing immobile, her face expressionless, in deep concentration until she heard the call ‘Action!’ (Charles Affron)

A Timely Interception (1913)

Directed by  D.W. Griffith
Release date: June 7, 1913 /Re-released July 9, 1915

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)  

Christy Cabanne (writer)

Cast (in credits order)  

The Farmer W. Chrystie Miller The Farmer
The Farmer’s Daughter Lillian Gish The Farmer’s Daughter
The Farmer’s Adopted Son Robert Harron The Farmer’s Adopted Son
Uncle James – The Farmer’s Brother Lionel Barrymore Uncle James – The Farmer’s Brother
May – Uncle James’s Daughter Lucille Hutton May – Uncle James’s Daughter
The Oil Syndicate Prospector Joseph McDermott The Oil Syndicate Prospector
The Oil Syndicate Officer William J. Butler The Oil Syndicate Officer
The Oil Syndicate Officer Alfred Paget The Oil Syndicate Officer
First Oil Rig Foreman Frank Evans First Oil Rig Foreman
Second Oil Rig Foreman Frank Opperman Second Oil Rig Foreman
Uncle James’s Friend Adolph Lestina Uncle James’s Friend
The Policeman Charles Gorman The Policeman
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Undetermined Secondary Role (uncredited) Christy Cabanne Undetermined Secondary Role (uncredited)
Undetermined Secondary Role (uncredited) Mae Marsh Undetermined Secondary Role (uncredited)
Cinematography by G.W.Bitzer
A Timely Interception - Lillian Gish - Biograph
A Timely Interception – Lillian Gish – Biograph


After a hard struggle the old man has just saved enough money to justify the marriage of his daughter and adopted son, when word comes from the oil fields nearby that his brother has lost his job, the little girl is very ill, and there is no money in the house. The sacrifice is a big one, but it has to be made. The wedding is postponed. One day his brother rides over on a bicycle to pay a visit to his benefactors, but does not bring the money. The little family is at a desperate pass; the house has been put up for sale. An oil prospector discovers oil on the premises and takes an option on the property, then hastens away to form a syndicate. The old man’s brother and the boy go out in a field to dig postholes, and strike oil. The importance of the discovery is appreciated by the former oil man, and the pair rush off to the house. On the way they fall into a disused well, from which the boy contrives to escape. The oil syndicate is on the way in a fast motor car when they are intercepted by a traffic policeman who has seen a little girl clinging to the back of the car. She is the old man’s niece, who has risen from her sick bed, put on her roller skates, and gone on a lark. The oil men bundle the half-fainting girl into the car, rush to the house, and are forcing the old man to sign the papers when the boy enters and stops the transaction. The syndicate is foiled, and the great event takes place after all, some days later.

Technical Specifications:

Runtime 17 min (16 fps)
Sound Mix Silent
Color Black and White
Aspect Ratio 1.33 : 1
Film Length 305 m (1 reel) (USA)
Negative Format 35 mm
Cinematographic Process Spherical
Printed Film Format 35 mm

Produced by Biograph, distributed by General Film Company 1913

Filmed in Nogales – Arizona and California USA

Aside from its dramatic qualities, “A Timely Interception”, the fifth Biograph re-issue of subjects directed by D.W. Griffith, offers the many followers of W. Chrystie Miller an opportunity to see “the grand old man,” as he is called, in one of the deepest bits of acting he has ever done before the camera.

A Timely Interception - 2 Biograph
A Timely Interception – Biograph

The story tells of an old man who has saved enough money to justify the marriage of his daughter and adopted son when word comes from the old man’s brother that he had lost his job, his little girl is very ill and there is no money in the house. The sacrifice is a big one, but it has to be made. This postpones the wedding and eventually leads to the home being placed on sale. Later, the adopted son and the old man’s brother are digging post-holes on the farm when they discover oil, and in their haste to tell the old man of the lucky strike, they fall into an old abandoned oil well. In the meantime, a prospector for an oil syndicate was busy with the old man in a effort to force him to sell the farm, and had fairly well succeeded when the boy rushes into the house and stops the transaction. A short while after, the great event takes place with far more pomp than it would have otherwise.

The situations of the story are well constructed, there is plenty of action, and the acting of W. Chrystie Miller, Lillian Gish, Robert Harron, Lionel Barrymore, Jos McDermott and Wm. J. Butler is up to the usual high standard to be expected of these players. (Biograph Program)

A Timely Interception - Biograph
A Timely Interception – Biograph

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Back to Lillian Gish Home page