Picture Play Magazine – August 1919 Vol. X No. 6
The Screen in Review
Criticism and comment on recent releases, by one of New York’s leading authorities on matters pertaining to the screen.
By Peter Milne
“Broken Blossoms” marks a real advancement in the motion-picture art. Mr. Griffith has instituted something new in it at every angle from which a production usually is viewed. He brings a new style of photography which creates a more artistic effect than plain flat black-and-white work. He brings a new sort of drama, a new sort of production. “Broken Blossoms” is the simple tale of the lives of three people in London’s Chinatown.
The girl, daughter of a brutal prize fighter, who beats her mercilessly whenever he is drunk —which is often—is protected by a Chinaman who has long loved her from afar. After one particularly severe beating she receives from her father the Chinaman finds her and takes her to his room, where he bathes the poor bruised body and dresses her in the finest silks. It is the only happiness that has ever come into her life, but its coming is the heralding of her death, for her father suddenly discovers that he has “parental” rights, and, his rage unbounded, he seeks her out and spoils her little moment of satisfaction.
Tragic as the entire picture is, it appeals to all our finer emotions, and, with the perfectly splendid production that Griffith has given it, it deserves to rank with the finest achievements of the screen. The scenes of London’s Chinatown are marvelous in their realism. Lillian Gish fairly lives the part of the girl, and expresses the tragedy of the empty life with a wonderful characterization. Richard Barthelmess, as the Chinaman, invests the part with a touch of the mystic, of the romantic, that establishes him as a hero far better than wavy hair and good clothes ever did a matinee idol. Donald Crisp returns to the screen from directing to play the fighter, and brings out the coarse brutality of the father to a degree.
Broken Blossoms – The Movie