“The Griffith studio family seems to be breaking up,” began the Gossip, as he leaned back in his porch chair and studied the summer moon; “Lillian Gish is to be starred by the Frohman Amusement Corporation at $4,500 a week. Bobbie Harron is already at work upon his first star production, to be released thru Metro, and Dick Barthelmess becomes a star, too, as soon as he finishes work in ‘Way Down East.'”
“That always comes with development and progress,” sighed the Philosopher, studying the glow of his cigar. “Of course, they will all keep on working under the Griffith eye, making their pictures at the Mamaroneck studios, but the old ensemble will be gone,” went on the Gossip. “Harron is now working with Chet Withey as director.
Meanwhile, Griffith seems to have a find in little Mary Hay, who succeeded to poor ‘Cutie Beautiful’s role in ‘Way Down East.’ Miss Hay was in the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic, but she has given up that work to devote her entire time to the films. They do say, you know, that Miss Hay and Barthelmess are to be married in the autumn.”
The Philosopher smiled. “Griffith is hard at work on ‘ ‘Way Down East,’ ” rambled on the Gossip. “It is said that it will cost him around $750,000 before he finishes. Only the other day he used his biggest set since the Babylonian scenes of ‘Intolerance.’ It was a huge reproduction of a smart ballroom. And he has two almost complete villages built, one on Long Island and the other on the Mamaroneck property.
Way Down East set – filming “The Barn Dance”- Mamaroneck Archive
Way Down East – Mamaroneck filming sets
They tell me that Creighton Hale plays a comedy character in ‘ ‘Way Down East’ and that he is going to make a big hit.”
“Players take surprising turns under Griffith’s direction,” remarked the Philosopher. “Griffith has just bought back the production originally called ‘Black Beach’ from First National for $400,000,” the Gossip went on. “They say he is going to use it as part of his repertoire at a New York theater in the fall. It will be called ‘Tlie Gamest Girl.’ They say that Carol Dempster makes a remarkable hit in it, so great that members of the First National call her the biggest find in five years.”
CAROL DEMPSTER & RICARDO CORTEZ in The Sorrows of Satan – Photo 1926
Carol Dempster – The Love Flower
Eastern screen interests now seem to center in David Wark Griffith’s forthcoming film repertoire season at a New York playhouse to be named later. Mr. Griffith’s seasons are now annual events—and things to be looked forward to. Recall that his last season at Cohan’s Theater produced “Broken Blossoms.”
This year Mr. Griffith will start, some time late in August probably, with ” ‘Way Down East,” which he has been shooting since before last Christmas. The total footage ran to between 600,000 and 700,000 feet, and, at this writing, the cutting has brought it down to 26,000 feet, or 26 reels. As the production will, it is expected, be released in eight reels. Mr. Griffith still has quite a task ahead of him. Prominent in the cast are Lillian Gish, Dick Barthelmess, Mary Hay, Creighton Hale, Burr Mcintosh, Kate Bruce and others of prominence.
DW Griffith filming team – Mamaroneck NY – Way Down East
Shooting a scene from Way Down East, Griffith seated below the camera
D. W. Griffith directing Lillian Gish in “Way Down East” (1920)
Way Down East – shooting at Mamaroneck NY 1920
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith on set
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith on set (Vermont)
Actress Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Kate Bruce, D.W. Griffith, Mrs. David Landau, Burr McIntosh, Lowell Sherman in a scene from the movie Way Down East
Photo: Behind the Scenes – Way Down East
Another feature of Mr. Griffith’s repertoire season will be “The Love Flower,” originally produced as “Black Beach” and the production which the director bought back from First National to elaborate and enlarge. Carol Dempster has the leading rule. Bobbie Harron is doing nicely with his individual productions, made at the Griffith Mamaroneck studios and which are to be released thru Metro. The first of the star series is “Coincidence,” directed by Chet Withey. June Walker, who scored last season on the stage in “My Lady Friends,” with the late Clifton Crawford, is leading woman.
Film fans will be interested to know that Betty Compson’s new pictures, beginning with “Prisoners of Love,” will be released thru Goldwyn channels. Miss Compson is the young actress who scored so sensationally in “The Miracle Man.”
After observing Dorothy Gish’s “Remodeling Her Husband,” (Paramount), we are confident that Lillian Gish could easily develop into a director of fine originality. This is the little comedy drama in which Miss Lillian directed her sister last winter.
Dorothy Gish and James Rennie – Remodeling Her Husband
Dorothy Gish and James Rennie (2) – Remodeling Her Husband
Dorothy Gish and James Rennie (3) – Remodeling Her Husband
Dorothy Gish and James Rennie (Dorothy and Lillian Gish by Lillian Gish) – Remodeling Her Husband
Dorothy Gish – Remodeling Her Husband
It is the old, old opus of the bride who sets out to cure her hubby of his flirtatious tendencies. Of course, as soon as he feels that he is losing his wife, he repents—and things end in a reconciliation. There are dozens of touches in which one can recognize the delicate and gently lyric hand of Lillian Gish, such as the delicious moment where Dorothy, as the angry Jane Wakefield, hurries thru the park and demonstrates how she can attract masculine attention.
Dorothy Gish lends her inimitable humor to the proceedings, but Lillian is the real star, even if she does not once appear on the silversheet.
The Gishes Go A-Calling and Find the Triangle Girls At Home
By Joan Benson
Motion Picture Classic Vol.4 (No. 2 – April 1917)
Dorothy Gish sat back patiently in the chauffeur seat of her car. She had been waiting thus for half an hour. It was a bright, beautiful day, and Dorothy’s soul longed for the exhilaration of the drive down the road. The reason for her delay was not far to seek.
Near the picturesque old summer – house sat a slim, golden haired figure. She was poring over the heavy volumes that lay on the table before her. Every now and again an expression of satisfaction swept over her piquant features, and she made a note on the tablet beside the book. In deep thought she raised her head and gazed at Dorothy with unseeing, dreamy eyes.
“For pity’s sake, Lillian how much longer do you expect me to wait? One would think that your life depended on writing that child composition, or theme, or whatever she calls it. Your disposition is entirely too mild, but mine isn’t, and I warn you – “
“All right Dorothy; I’ll come right this minute,” laughed Lillian. “You really are a dear to wait so long. Wait till I get my hat.” She disappeared into the house, and in less time than it takes to tell was beside her sister in the shining car.
Dorothy, restored to good humor, put her foot on the starter, and they were off.
“Let’s go by and see Clara Williams’ rose-garden,” suggested Lillian, and Dorothy, not caring where they went, just so they rode, obediently headed towards the rose garden. They did not see anyone at the front of the house, so they got out of the care and went around the back. Unobserved, they came upon the intrepid Clara, attired in overalls and stout boots, with her glorious hair neatly plaited into a heavy braid that hung down her back. She was busy with shovel and rake, puttering around the roots of her beloved rose-bushes.
“Good morning, Miss Williams!” said Lillian, suddenly. Clara did not look up. She went on arranging dirt with elaborate carefulness. “Oh, good morning!” she replied absently, conscious only that she must answer. The girls shrieked and descended upon her. “Tell us about the roses, Clara,” they insisted, and Clara, finally realizing the she had company, waxed eloquent on the joys of rose-culture.
After a while Dorothy interrupted an argument between Lillian and the connoisseur of roses. Lillian was insisting that Clara plant “some of those lovely Sunset roses,” because they were her favorites, and Clara declared stoutly in favor of Marechal Niel.
“The long, white road is before us, sister,” said Dorothy, striking an attitude, and Lillian meekly followed her to the car. “Good luck to your roses Clara,” they called, and Lillian’s voice came to her, “Think over the Sunset roses. They are exquisite.” And the voices faced into the distance.
As they passed a particularly pretty home, Lillian caught a glimpse of black-and-white stripes on the lawn. “Hello Louise Glaum!” she greeted the glimpse, and Dorothy stopped the car.
Louise did not rise to speak to them. She was busily employed with her bull pup and a piece of steak just then. “Sit down please, and talk to me. I am terribly at a loss when I am not working. I can’t find anything to do,” she said, with her attention still centered on the recalcitrant pup. “You seem rather busy just now,” said Dorothy. Each of the girls appropriated a pillow and sank upon it.
Just then they heard the loud blowing of a horn, and the three looked up, to see Bessie Love grinning at them joyously from her car.
“Isn’t this a gorgeous day?” she inquired. “I don’t have to be at the studio until two o’clock, so I just ditched lessons and came for a spin. I adore it.”
“Come and listen to Louise’s new gown. It’d make your hair run cold,” called Dorothy. “I never heard a gown talk, Dorothy,” smiled Lillian.
“Thanks, but I can’t; I have only one stop this morning, and that’s to tell a funny story to Norma.”
“Tell us,” suggested Louise.
“Norma has to censor it first,” giggled Bessie.
“I’m not sure I ought to tell it.” The engine gave a little whir, and she was gone.
“Let’s go and hear it,” said Dorothy. “Come on Louise.”
“I don’t want to. I am reading a thrilling story,” said Louise, reveling in the sunshine of the grass. They were spinning down the street, when they heard a call and saw Margaret Thompson rolling on the lawn with her two pets. They stopped at the curb, and Margaret flung herself down on the green, with a dog in one hand and a cat in the other. After they had commented on the weather and Margaret had confined a secret to them, which I will not reveal because it was really a secret, they waited a minute, while Margaret gave them each a beautiful white rose. “It is lovely,” said Lillian, “but don’t you adore the Sunset roses?”
“I will hear that funny story of Bessie’s,” stated Dorothy, with a determined shake of her head. Accordingly, she gave the car more gas and it leaped ahead at, I am forced to admit, at least forty miles an hour. A tall, black form stepped into the road before them, waving its arms wildly. Lillian gasped, “I knew you would do it!” and sank back into the cushions. Dorothy stopped and looked innocently and inquiringly at the man. “Exceeding the speed limit,” he said tersely.
“How much do I owe you?” asked Dorothy, with a resigned air. The man rubbed his chin reflectively. “Three dollars,” he said finally. Dorothy opened her bag and thrust some bills into his hand.
“Here’s six,” she said; “don’t stop me when I come back.” The car shot by the amazed constable and disappeared.
They stopped in front of the Talmadge home, where the lovely Norma had returned a bride. She had finished her first picture at the head of her own company, and her husband had brought her home for a rest before returning to East to resume her work. Inside they found Bessie perched on the arm of Norma’s chair, and Norma was smiling up at her. Both Lillian and Dorothy knew that they were too late for the story. Norma turned her luminous eyes upon them. Norma’s eyes always seem to have laughter lurking in the depths of them somewhere, and the two girls felt that she was “awfully glad to see them,” even before she told them so.
After the girls had asked a dozen questions about Norma’s romance, and her work and her first picture, and had been assured that she really missed them, Bessie said musingly, to no one in particular, “I wonder, if I go East on a picture, if I will return a bride – “
The girls interrupted her with gales of laughter.
“You’re too young to think of it,” said Lillian with a twinkle in her blue eyes. “Just the same, I’ll race you and win,” said Bessie, daring them.
“You won’t race me,” said Lillian. “This same Dorothy Gish has been arrested once already this morning, and you don’t inveigle me into any more races,” she said it positively.
“Oh, come on,” Bessie and Dorothy insisted, dragging her up. “Norma and I will race you and Dorothy.” Norma’s big eyes were mournful all of a sudden. “I am dying to go,” she confessed, “but I have a scenario to read and a million costumes to plan.” Her smile suddenly flashed out at them. “I know; you came back here, and I’ll have a plate of fudge to the winner.” She looked so winsome and adorable as she said it that the girls, thus urged, went off at once.
“She should have suggested paying your fine,” called Dorothy, as they started. “I’ve paid mine.”
“We’ll race to the Dalton bungalow,” said Bessie, starting her car, and, with a shout, they were off.
It was almost neck-and-neck for the first half mile – Bessie, hatless, her hair blowing wildly about her face, grimly leaning over her wheel – Dorothy, throwing laughing remarks to Lillian, who was wondering why she had allowed herself to be persuaded, and murmuring, “I hope they remember to put Sunset roses on my grave.”
They passed the constable. He grinned at Dorothy and allowed her to pass unmolested, but he stopped in front of Bessie’s car, with a “Young woman, are you aware that you are breaking the law?”
Bessie gave one despairing glance at Dorothy’s car, racing away into the distance, and said recklessly: “If you don’t get out of my way, I’ll run over the law.” She started the engine revolving rapidly, and the astonished constable stepped back mechanically. With a rush she had passed him, and the car swayed dangerously down the road.
Dorothy’s car was drawn up in front of Dorothy Dalton’s home when Bessie dashed up. “You had that constable trained,” she expostulated. Lillian said consolingly, “Never mind, Love; I’ll make Dorothy divide her fudge with you.”
They found Dorothy Dalton on her knees beside a mysterious patch of green. She looked up as she sensed their approach and gave them one of her smiles that rivals a brand used by Fairbanks.
“Hello!” she said, in a most pleased voice, and the three began talking at once. “We had the grandest race!” “I was arrested!” “What under the sun is that growing?”
Dorothy tried to answer all at once. “Oh, tell me about it. This, my dear Lillian,” she said, dimpling up at the little figure, “is the dark secret of my life – ”
“The green secret,” interrupted Dorothy Gish. The other Dorothy ignored the interruption. “I am about to confess. Look into the wire netting. Look into the runway. What do you see?”
“Leghorns,” “Chickens,” “Pullets,” unhesitatingly came three replies.
“They are white Orpingtons,” said Dorothy grandly. “And they are mine. This, my dear girls, is chicken feed. They must have green. You see, this variety of chicken – “
“Help!” the girls laughed. “Who would have thought it of you? You frivolous, dancing flirt, you! To be domesticated enough to keep chickens! We just left Norma. She is making some fudge –“
Dorothy rose and flung the green indiscriminately to the hens. “I’ll be with you in a minute,” she called from the steps; “I need just my hat and coat.”
When they arrived at Norma’s they found her stirring a pot of brown liquid industriously.
“Norma!” exclaimed Lillian, descending upon her. “Don’t stir it – it will turn to sugar.”
Fictionized from the Dorothy Gish-Paramount Photoplay
Motion Picture Classic – July, 1920 Vol.X No. 5
By FAITH SERVICE
“You’re making a mistake !” chorused the flushed femininities after having showered Janie Wakeman with all the extraordinaries in the way of aluminum they had found purchasable if not practicable; “a terr-i-ble mistake,” they intoned.
“Not me!” snapped Janie Wakeman. She had a snappy way, had Janie.
“He’s a devil with the ladies!” went on tlie chief mourners, dolorously.
“He’ll have a devil for a wife,” came back Janie, with pursed lips; “that’ll cure him.”
“Not Jack . . . there was the blonde down at the beach summer before last … he had a fierce time over that.
She”—the fair informant lowered her voice meaningly—’she was married!”
“Old stuff!” said Janie.
“There was the girl on the Pullman car,” suggested still another ; “her father stepped in . ”
“There was the girl who waits on the table in Wild’s, ” vouchsafed another; “Jack can’t eat there any longer. Oh, Janie, darling, you’ll have a fearful life, simply fearful!”
“All this,” observed Janie, stirring her chocolate coolly,
“was before my time and does not concern me.”
“But, Janie,” they protested, en masse, “what makes you suppose you will be any different than the others ? He is a flirt. He’s fickle. He’s inconstant and unsteady. Everybody says so.”
“Everybody.” said Janie. “does not have to marry him. Nor, I might add, has he married everybody. I am the first. I shall be the last. .All that is necessary, my dears, is efficiency in the marital relationship. I am young, but oh, how I am wise, ” she added, softly, “when it comes to Jack. ” She said, aloud, “”Jack shall neither break my heart nor my home. Wait and see!”
They waited. Then they waited some more. It was unbelievable. Jack Valentine had never been known to walk a straight line on the street when a pretty girl was on the other side. After his marriage to Janie he seemed to be of the nature of a sleep-walker; his eyes were fixed. It was magic, they said.
Janie took it calmly and rather irritatingly to many of her prenuptial well-wishers. She had the air of “I told you so!” Some went so far as to say that they pitied poor, dear Jack … his home life must be something awful! They began to remember the autocracy of Janie with her humble parents. .After Janie’s advent, it was recalled, the parents, well-meaning always, had had little if anything to say. Of course, they had seemed to like it, but then, they had been parents . . . that is different . . .
The well-wishers had to admit to an idyllic state. There was every sign. Janie in her pretty room, en negligee, waiting for Jack to run in for early tea . . . which he always did.
Janie undoing her husband’s shoe, petulantly pretty.
Janie on her husbands knee before the open fire. The pictures were complete. When the first difficulty came the well-wishers were wholly in the dark. That was Janie’s way. Jack came home for supper one evening half an hour late. He entered with glib excuses and many kisses.
He was greeted by an apparition that made his amative blood congeal.
His wife, his Janie, stood on the threshold of the living room and her blue eyes blazed in her head like twin coals. She was sobbing hot, indignant tears and her small fists were beating the air in a thoroly efficient sort of manner.
“Dont you dare . . . d-d-dont you d-d-dare!” she sputtered, effectively. “I saw you! I did! You w-wretch!
You . . oh, you! No, dont speak, don’t dare to speak.
You’ll lie. I know you’ll lie. Of course, you will. You always do . . . husbands always do, I mean. I feel It coming. You’ll say that the subway was held up, or you were held up … at the office, or , . . or something of the sort. It isn’t so . . . no, it isn’t so . . . no. I wont stop talking. I’ve only just begun. I saw you, I tell you. I saw you.
With my own eyes. O-o-o-o-h !”
Jack waved a limp hand. It was no use.
“I was on top of a Fifth Avenue bus,” stormed on Janie, “riding along and thinking how I’d get down pretty soon and buy you some ties I saw in Budd’s. Then, all at once, I saw you go up to a girl on the avenue, a blonde girl. John T. Valentine, and help her into a taxicab. A taxicab, mind you !
You know you did. Don’t tell me. As if I didn’t know what a taxicab means ! Haven’t I been in em? ‘”
‘E-r-r-r-r . . a-a-a-a-a-h …”
“John Valentine. if you say another word I’ll hurl every single bit of bric-a-brac in this miserable, violated, desecrated, once-holy home at your infidel head. I will! You just dare
to come in here and talk to me like that, to my very face!
Oh, you brazen thing, you . . . you …”
Janie choked, but waved her fists fiercely to caution the ghastly John to a complete silence.
‘You got in after her,” she went on, “and I got down and got into another taxi and followed you. You took her to her very door, and at that door, you . . . you …”
Something between a groan, a squeak and a whine emanated from the nearly collapsed Valentine. He swayed weakly and rested his palm on the nearest support.
“You kist her,” shrieked Janie, “you did! Before my eyes!
Kist her! I call heaven to witness if a falser wretch ever lived or breathed ! I call on all the gods ! I am wronged ! I am a wronged woman! Heavens!” Janie gave three tremendous sobs, then she, too, crumpled up and fell into the chair behind her. “John T. Valentine.” she said, “what are you going to do?”
John T. Valentine made a desperate endeavor to appear as tho he filled at least some portion of his clothing. During the tirade he seemed perceptibly to have wilted. He felt of his collar, of his hair, even ran his fingers over the outline of his features to make certain they had not altered; then he said, with great adequacy, “Janet, you know I-love you.”
This produced an emotional Niagara, terrific in its onslaught, to the eye and to the ear. Another hour and Janie demanded, albeit “more weakly. “John T. Valentine, what are you going to do?”‘
John T. Valentine crept over to the couch upon which the sharer of his bosom was, by now, drooping. He tentatively touched the hem of her flowing garment. The night was creeping on apace. He was cowed ; he was subdued ; he was convinced that he had trod down and splintered the ten commandments and that, no doubt, he would have done damage to ten more had there been that number; but he was also sleepy and he knew that he hated with a frightful and bloodthirsty vengeance the blonde on the .Avenue who had seemed to him, at that moment, unable to carry her suitcase, and to whom, probably because she was blonde, he had tendered his assistance, and he knew as clearly that he was violently sleepy and that he adored Janie. If she could know these things, too!
He began to tell her. He began to conjure up their imminent and tender past.
The result was horrific. It produced dolor not unmixed with temper and resulted, all told, in four smashed vases, rather jolly vases at that ; the complete destruction of the family album, with all the grandmas and grandpas ; three pictures; two glass trifles and various carefully selected books.
With each crash Janie would wail, “You’ve broken my heart, you have! You have, you’ve broken my heart!” until John T. felt, with a shudder thru his spine, that he could hear the agonizing splintering of Janie’s beloved and agonized little heart.
Around morning they fell asleep.
The result was breakfast at noon, with considerable marmalade, a chastened husband, a weepy but picturesquely forgiving little bride.
Of course, a second honeymoon ensued. It was altogether blissful. It had a savor the original one had not. They had, they knew, suffered together and had “come thru.” Jack had sinned, had strayed from the fold. It gave him, Janie half admitted it, very secretly, to herself, a sort of glamor, a new, if dangerous, garment of illusion. Janie on the other hand, had forgiven. In reality, she had fallen asleep, but pshaw!
What is reality when one is twenty and very much in love?
There followed another interlude.
“Have you ever.” said everybody, “known such an ideal couple as the Jack Valentines? They were made for one another. ”
Then, abruptly, it became known that Janie Valentine had gone home to mother. Had picked up every belonging she owned and gone clean back.
That was all that did become known. Janie was mum. She took her efficiency and her silence into her father’s business offices and proceeded to be successful. The only mail she did not read were the letters she received in John’s handwriting. These she tore up into little, vicious bits, lit a match and completely removed from being. The only phone messages she did not personally receive were those made by John. These she either did not receive at all or transferred to another line upon recognition of the voice.
Gossip said that Janie Valentine had “changed.”
There was a little glint in her eyes that had not been there before. There was a slight tightening of her mouth. When she walked, now and then her shoulders drooped as tho she were carrying a burden ever so slightly too much for her strength. When she awoke in the mornings her pillow was always damp. No one but Janie knew that.
It had all been about a manicure girl. A rather opulent creature with a hearty laugh. Janie bad been in the habit of having the girl come to the house to do her nails every Saturday morning. One day Jack suggested that he rather needed a manicure himself. Janie suggested that her Mabel do them for him. Jack assented. After the first manicure, Jack took to having them as regularly as Janie. At first, Janie was unsuspicious. Jack had been, since the taxicab catastrophe, so completely uxorious. Then, one day, while he was being “done,” Janie had caught a look in his eyes. It was the old battle light. At once she was on her guard.
Jack was a transparent person. The next time he had an appointment for a manicure, Janie had occasion to go out . . . for a while . . . When she returned, rather suddenly and very quietly, her husband was not being . . . manicured . . . One hour later, to the minute, Janie went home to mother.
This time, her methods were very different.
There was no weeping, no wailing, no gnashing of teeth. There was no reviling, no accusations, no protestations. Jack wished, tragically, that there were. Just silence. Grim silence, Glacial. Totally unforgiving. Her small, white face . . . how stern! Her hurried, yet precise preparations, how final! Jack bit his manicure away and cursed the fragile sex! His advances, his pleas, his self-condemnations were met with a frigid aloofness, not so sad as it was sweet, nor so sweet as it was sad. Jack was minded of the lines. “But sweet, for me, no more of you, not while I live, not tho I die, good-night, good-by !”
His soul was swept and scarred and seared by a knowledge, a revelation, of his torrential love for Janie! Gods, how he loved her ! It ached !
Janie became exceedingly businesslike. She took to wearing severe-looking garments and talking like a profiteer. The worse her heartache and the damper her pillow in the morning, the more she talked and the more severe she grew. Her parents led a rather terrible life. They had always been somewhat in awe of Janie, single; now that she was come home in her new state, she was truly terrible. They had not an inkling of the quaking heart within the firmly girded breast.
It took John T. two months to gain admission to the rather important place Janie had made for herself in her father’s importing house. He had, finally, to see her by appointment. It was an ordeal he did not soon forget. Janie talked to him as his grandmother might have talked, as some remote and distant great-aunt might have talked to a foolish nephew who had foolishly strayed from the safe and beaten way. She didn’t talk one bit like his Janie, who had lain, with tumbled curls and love-flushed face, within his cradling arms. He had to focus his vision and pinch himself to make sure this new Janie was also his old Janie, the Janie he loved . . .”
“… are the paths of righteousness which, alone, bring peace and eventual happiness,” Janie was ending up. She had been going it in such a wise for the better part of an hour. Jack gulped mightily. He had not many resources, had Jack. He was lovable, but not subtle. If, now, he could only have taken the terribly stern young person and cuddled her and kist her absurd frown away and called her oogly-googly and such like familiar-sounding things, he could have won out. He was, he felt, deprived of his weapons and left defenceless.
He could only say, with thinly shredded adequacy, “Janie, I . . . I-love you !” Under the stern appraisement of her eyes his own fell and he fidgeted.
“Love, young man, ” said Janie, “is a science. It should be treated as such. One does not toy with science, lest one toy inadvertently, with a high explosive. Love, young man, is such an one. Love …”
“Oh, Janie,” burst forth Jack, “Janie . . . please . . . remember. Janie, that’s all I ask of you. Just sit there for five, for ten minutes, and remember. Remember just as hard as ever you can. Our first meeting, Janie, our second, our . . . our third. You do remember our third, don’t you, dar . . . er . . . don’t you, Janie? We took a walk … we … we didn’t keep on walking . . . you do, Janie, I see it in your face . . . then, that night, you kist the ring I slipped on your hand …. you were all . . . well, go on. Janie, just for five minutes. “
After precisely three and three-quarter minutes Janie had crumpled in her official chair, the crisp attire was flooded with tears and there was none of Janie to be seen at all. She was completely engulfed by John.
An hour after that she had severed her business connections, dispensed with home and mother and was busily rehabilitating herself in her husband’s home.
There was, of course, a third honeymoon. There would have had to be. They had become a man and a woman of sorrows. They conducted themselves as such. It was tinged with melancholy, this third honeymoon. There was much talk of the frailty of human nature and, on Janie’s part at least, very much talk indeed of the consummate greatness of a woman’s enduring and all-forgiving love.
Still, Jack knew, it had been a capitulation on Janie’s part. He was only human. He began to give himself airs and, as it were, to look about him. He began to believe that he was after all Janie’s taunts and threats, the master in his own domain. Twice now, with just a little coaxing, Janie had crept back into the fold. She probably always would.
Jack began to strut about. He felt more like other men. His wife, so he attitudinized, was only a woman . . . tish, tosh! He attitudinized in such a manner for six weeks. One day, presto, change! he found himself a bachelor again. He had a habit of so doing. His Janie was gone off. This time she did not do so temperate a thing as to make it home and mother. She went off, vaguely, but she might, from her sinister notes, have gone most anywhere.
Jack had the most hideous nightmares. Now, at last, he had gone and done it. This—this was beyond expectation ! He thought of his Janie in all sorts of terrible situations, almost always with a blond man with a Greek-god torso and melting eyes. He had done it this time!
He took to wearing flowing ties and affecting a tragic air. He wrote to the general delivery address Janie had left him the most impassioned, the most desperate, the most suicidal notes. He soared as neither Janie nor he had ever supposed he could soar before. He even quoted poetry and finally got so bad that he composed some. He took to playing the piano and hinted at the harp. At this, Janie came home.
Of course, a fourth honeymoon ensued.
On this occasion Jack adopted the attitude, or felt it—who knows—of the desperate lover. He languished at his lady’s feet and mooned into her eyes. They talked of their past and of the more than earthly thing their love had become, that it should lead them, as it did, thru the still waters And the dark valleys unto, as always, each other’s arms …
They impressed upon each other the fact that this was the ultimate reconciliation, inasmuch as only those who had been thru the tires of the crucible of love could really know its deepest meaning. They pledged each other thru the medium of beautiful, fervently .sounding phrases, prodigally borrowed for the occasion from the “six best sellers” of the day. They outdid each other; capped each other’s highest-flown phrases without even the faintest semblance of a blush.
“Love like ours” – chanted Jack, cured and cowed “has never been …”
Janie nodded, solemnly. “Love like ours” she repeated fixing him with her eyes, “has nev-er been…”
Above them, the ancient moon sailed thru the ancient sky.
Lillian Gish (film director) 2 – Remodeling Her Husband
Lillian Gish (film director) 3 – Remodeling Her Husband
Remodeling A Husband
Fictionized from the scenario by Dorothy Elizabeth Carter (Lillian Gish).
Produced by Paramount, Starring Dorothy Gish. Directed by Lillian Gish.
The Twenties began with D. W. Griffith apparently firmly in command of his position as both master innovator and master showman. Broken Blossoms and Way Down East had both been highly profitable, and he had moved from Hollywood to the East Coast, where in his new Mamaroneck Studios he was presumed to have both artistic and economic freedom.
Mamaroneck – Sets for Orphans of the Storm
Unfortunately, Griffith made his move—an expensive one—at a time when the film industry was undergoing radical changes and when audience demands were making a great shift because of the new sophistication of the post-war years. Griffith had no sympathy with this change. He doubtless felt that it was of a transient nature, and that audiences would swing back again to the kinds of films he had always made and intended to go on making. It was a major error in gauging audience taste—which made it an equally major business error. Griffith had never been a good businessman, nor had he any real interest in amassing profits—except to pour them back into making more films. Moreover, with some justification, he had a certain amount of vanity in his make-up. He knew what he had done for the movies; his name was always used in the advertisements as the major guarantee of quality and prestige. His optimism, based on faith in his own ability and the power of his name, caused him to continue operations and to pay for his new studio with a series of bank loans. By the early twenties, he was so heavily in debt to the banks that only an unbroken string of successes could have rescued him. The amount of indebtedness was so great that total ownership and control of his films virtually slipped through his fingers. If he defaulted on payments or failed to finish a film by a given time, the banks had the right to take over, and to change or finish the film in any way they saw fit in order to salvage their investments. The only positive aspect of all of these complicated financial dealings was that the negatives of the Griffith films became tangible physical assets and were protected far more carefully than they might have been had Griffith been in better financial health or working as a contract director for a major studio. Through the care given them for purely financial reasons, all but four of the Griffith films did survive.
It was against this background, and needing a solid commercial hit to sustain the success of Way Down East, that Griffith in 1921 launched Orphans of the Storm. Like Way Down East, it was based on an old barnstormer of a play The Two Orphans. Griffith liked the basic theme but thought it was too mild to stand unsupported. So he plunged it wholesale into a story of the French Revolution, weaving its fictional characters into actual events and bringing them into contact with Danton, Robespierre, and other historical figures. When the film opened with a grand-scale premiere at the Apollo Theatre in New York, Arthur James, editor-in-chief of The Moving Picture World, wrote an unprecedented full-page editorial rave (quite separate from the publication’s equally enthusiastic regular review), which was headed “Mr. Griffith Rises to a Dizzy Height” and said, in part:
It is a triumph for D. W. Griffith to eclipse his own great productions which led the screen into new and finer realms, but with this picture he has succeeded in doing it. No more gorgeous thing has ever been offered on the screen. It has motion within motion, action upon action, and it builds up to crashing climaxes with all that superb definition which makes Mr. Griffith first and always the showman. No man of the stage or screen understands so well the art of exquisite torture for his spectators. He takes their heartstrings, one by one, then stretches them out until they are about to snap, ties little bowknots in them, and finally seizes them by handfuls and twists them until they quiver in agony. Then he applies myrrh and aloes and sweet inguents and sends the spectators away happy in the memory of attractive sufferings that they can never forget. His detail is perfection, and its grandeur is the sum total of many perfections. Its massed scenes surpass the greater of the European spectacles thus far of record. The rest of the press responded with like enthusiasm. The Motion Picture News stated: “The standard bearer of the celluloid drama has again demonstrated that he has no superior as a painter of rich and panoramic canvasses,” while the Exhibitors Trade Review remarked, “A great work of art. It has the sweep of The Birth of a Nation, the remarkable tragic drive of Broken Blossoms, the terrific melodramatic appeal of Way Down East, and a warning written in fire and spoken in thunder for all Americans to heed.”
Orphans of the Storm – Henriette and Chevalier de Vaudrey
Orphans of the Storm – Henriette and Chevalier de Vaudrey
Orphans of the Storm – Henriette and Chevalier de Vaudrey
Orphans of the Storm – Henriette and Chevalier de Vaudrey
Henrietta (Lillian Gish as Henriette Girard in Orphans of The Storm)
While time and perspective must convince us that Orphans of the Storm is a lesser film than The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, the reviews at the time were quite genuine in feeling that it was Griffith’s finest work. The lay press was equally enthusiastic, and the above reviews from the trade press are cited only because they definitely represent trade opinion. Exhibitors looked to Griffith for certain profits; producers regarded him as a prestigious figure-head for their industry; directors either learned from him or stole from him. Within just a few years, however, the trade would reverse these accolades, and their criticism of Griffith would be equally unrestrained. Griffith appeared at the premiere and spoke at some length to the audience. Stars Lillian and Dorothy Gish, seated in a proscenium box, also greeted the audience, and Lillian made a speech following the screening. It was a gala affair, but a good deal of its thunder was stolen by Universal’s ballyhoo for Von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives. This film had received so much exploitation during the preceding months, and had already earned a great deal of word-of-mouth notoriety even before the preview, so that it was very much the film event of January 1922. Its premiere, attended by scores of notables, was set for a week after that of Orphans of the Storm, and it stole most of the limelight. Coincident with Griffith’s premiere. First National suddenly released an Italian version of The Two Orphans. With brazen effrontery, they pointed out to exhibitors that audiences were clamoring for this kind of film, and they even billed it as “The production with a million dollars’ worth of publicity behind it.”
While it did well, Orphans of the Storm was not the box-office blockbuster that Griffith expected, and needed badly. Because it was neither a financial landmark nor an aesthetic advance over his previous films, it is usually dismissed far too casually by most historians ( even the few responsible ones) as representing “Griffith in decline”—a most unfair and inaccurate generalization. The “decline” of Griffith has been dated from any number of periods, depending on the “historian,” his knowledge of film, and most influential of all, his dislike of Griffith. Some historians would even have us believe that the decline began with A Corner in Wheat ( 1909). Decline inevitably occurred, but much later, and not necessarily for the reasons usually cited. Of course, all film-makers tend to decline in their later years. Even Charles Chaplin and Carl Dreyer, who were never forced to surrender their freedom and adapt to studio contractual requirements (as Griffith was), were unable to keep their later films from representing a decline from their creative peaks. At worst, Orphans of the Storm can be said to represent Griffith the artist-showman rather than Griffith the artist-innovator. Here the old maestro was out primarily to make a good picture that was also a “money” picture. To this end, he studied audience reaction carefully in its initial New York run and made several changes—deleting some of the more physically harrowing scenes (close-ups of rats crawling over Dorothy Gish, detail shots in the execution scenes), reviving Frank Puglia from an apparent death scene to take part in an happy ending tableau, and, more ill-advisedly, building up the comedy footage of Creighton Hale.
However, such commercial considerations in Orphans of the Storm were backed by all the technical mastery that Griffith had achieved in the preceding years. If there were no new innovations, the old ones were re-employed, polished, and developed. The detail shots in the battle scenes (troops moving into formation, close-ups of pistols being loaded and fired ) gave them a documentary quality which made them explicable as well as exciting. The notable lack of such shots (or even of many close-ups ) in the similar battle scenes in Rex Ingram’s Scaramouche a year later was one of the major factors contributing to the surprising dullness of those otherwise spectacular scenes. Griffith’s frequent habit of “pulling back” from the action—to view a battle as framed through the draperies of a window—literally made the audience a spectator through a window on history. The fast, rhythmic editing in the bacchanal sequence, as the prisoners were released from the Bastille, smoothly intercutting brief and increasingly large shots with moving camera shots that always cut oflf just before one had time to absorb them fully, was one of the finest episodes ever created by Griffith.
It was a tremendously exciting sequence, quite superior to the more famous machine-gun sequence in Eisenstein’s much-later October—a dazzling sequence certainly, but a mechanical and contrived one. Its fast cutting was functionally creative in that it intensified the emotions of the spectator, but it was dramatically far less honest than the cutting of Griffith’s bachannal. And if the climatic mob scenes and the race of Danton’s troops through the streets seem to be a repetition of the climax of The Birth of a Nation, what wonderful repetition it is—especially since it had to be shot entirely in the studio at Mamaroneck, with a greater stress on low-angled shots and a tighter cutting pattern to create the illusion of a mad dash through all of Paris instead of past the relatively few street sets that Griffith had constructed. Next to Intolerance, Orphans of the Storm is Griffith’s biggest spectacle, though its large sets are not always generously served by the fickle sunshine.
Some of the biggest scenes of the film’s climax were shot on a weekend, the only time when Griffith could enlist all the locals as extras. On those occasions the sun resolutely refused to shine, resulting in a downcast atmosphere from which it was impossible to extract the brightly-lit clarity that Griffith wanted. An MGM unit would merely have scrapped the day’s work and reassembled the unit when the sun was shining. Griffith, however, without outside backing and faced with the enormous upkeep of his studio, could not afford such a luxury. In any case, the excitement of these climactic episodes is such that nature’s uncooperative attitude was probably not even that apparent.
Having made the decision to fuse the old Italian stage (and screen) perennial with the new blood of the French Revolution, Griffith as usual went whole hog, re-creating many actual events and characters, and utilizing his beloved “historical facsimilies” based on old paintings or engravings. Authorities in both this country and France were called upon for advice, and the works of such noted historians as Paine, Guizot, and Abbott were consulted. Thomas Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution was, however, the Bible of the whole venture. Lillian Gish has remarked that every leading member of the cast had a copy of it and read it from cover to cover until they were thoroughly imbued with the proper sense of period. Another book that Griffith turned to often was Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Several reviews of the time added an erroneous credit by listing the film as being “based on the novel by Dickens.” Dickens was a great personal friend of Carlyle and drew most of his research material from him, including the incident of the Marquis’ carriage killing the child and his inquiry after the welfare of the horses. This incident, used both by Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities and by Griffith in his film, was later picked up by MGM in their sound version of A Tale of Two Cities and was obviously modeled on Griffith’s staging of it. Dickens’ peculiarly cinematic style, with parallel plots and a form of cross-cutting, and a rich bravura that excused the excesses of coincidence, had always fascinated Griffith, who admitted Dickens’ influence quite openly. This influence affected not only the dramatic structure of Griffith’s films but also the content. It may have been the strong flavor of Dickens in so many of the Griffith films that caused him to be widely dismissed as Victorian and old fashioned.
orphans of the storm – lillian gish is henriette girard
It may, admittedly, make moments of Orphans of the Storm seem a little quaint. For example, Griffith seems less worried about Lillian Gish’s being unjustly thrown into prison on a trumped-up charge by the aristocrats than he is by “the greater injustice” that has her sent to the prison for fallen women. There is a delightful moment later in the film when Robespierre reminds her of this prison sentence; as Sartov catches her in a lovely and innocent close-up, Lillian admits it and says, in title, “Yes, monsieur—but I was not guilty.” However, there is a major difference between injecting a Victorian flavor (which Griffith did well ) and propagating Victorian morality ( which he decidedly did not). It’s odd that Orphans of the Storm should often be called “old-fashioned,” while such accusations were never leveled against Wallace Worsley’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Henry King’s Romola. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a good if stilted and over-measured film, while Romola was visually superb but dramatically mediocre. Both had Dickensian plots, and structures that would have delighted Griffith—parallel plots, class conflicts, dramatic separations, and personal stories set against turbulent historical backgrounds. What both films lacked, in addition to keeping these diverse elements closely woven, was sweep, passion, the surge of history, and (Chaney’s performance excepted in the Hunchback) life-size emotion. Griffith could have worked wonders with both films; Romola, especially, needed him badly.
Griffith’s detractors who assail Orphans of the Storm for being out of date are baffled when confronted with the film’s political content and usually choose to ignore it completely. Griffith had never made any secret of his opposition to “kingly tyrannies,” and Orphans of the Storm not only afforded him the luxury of dramatizing his views but also gave him the chance to attack something he felt even more strongly about—Bolshevism. His original synopsis for the film read, in part:
. . . scenes are shown of the exaggerated luxury of those last days of the tottering omnipotence of the monarchy. The orgies and tyrannies of a section of the old French aristocracy is shown as it affects the common people. . . . Then comes the rolling of the ‘Ca Ira,’ the crashing of the Marseillaise, and the madness which we now call Bolshevism. Orphans of the Storm shows more vividly than any book of history can tell that the tyranny of kings and nobles is hard to bear, but that the tyranny of the mob under blood-lusting rulers is intolerable. The opening titles of Orphans of the Storm were climaxed by this still very timely line: “We in the United States with a democratic government should beware lest we mistake traitors and fanatics for patriots, and replace law and order with anarchy and bolshevism.” Later in 1922, Griffith, referring to Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety, stated: “Robespierre uses it as a weapon for destroying all who do not think as he does. This condition was not unlike that in Russia today. Some may see in it a lesson for our own people. . . .
As with all of Griffith’s historical epics, in Orphan of the Storm, every effort was made to document the facts and episodes presented. Thus, any errors were usually deliberate errors of omission, committed in the name of showmanship or dramatic license. For instance, one gets the impression at the end of the film that the French Revolution is all but over, and since Danton is one of the heroes of the film, no mention is made of his own subsequent execution. When Lillian Gish is rescued from the guillotine, the scores of other poor aristocrats denied a last minute rescue are conveniently irised-out, and the fact that the Reign of Terror is still very much in progress is somehow lost. But for the most part, the film remains remarkably factual, even to details. During the carmagnole orgy scene, the original musical score for the film featured “Ca Ira,” the frenzied tune sung by the Paris hoodlums of the time. ( The score was arranged by Albert Pesce. ) Griffith also made a point of stressing Robespierre’s effeminate, mincing walk. (Griffith’s titles term him “the original pussy-footer!” ) Like all of the big Griffith films, Orphans of the Storm was shot without any scenario, but was rehearsed carefully in advance. Lillian Gish has mentioned that most of the rehearsals took place in the New York theater still housing the successful run of Way Down East—and that the only written word referred to was Carlyle’s history. Much of the dialogue that was improvised in the course of these rehearsals was remembered, and later incorporated into the titles of the film.
Way Down East, made in 1920, had been a fife-saver for Griffith—and still was. The overhead of the new Mamaroneck studios was enormous, especially for an individual producer-director making as few films as Griffith. The popular Richard Barthelmess had been on salary for a long time after his last completed film for Griffith, and finally left to form his own company. Dream Street, a very pretentious pseudo-Broken Blossoms, was doing poorly, and receipts were negligible.
( Strangely, despite its “arty” flavor, it was well-liked by exhibitors—but not by audiences. ) The receipts from Way Down East had to support Griffith, maintain his studio, pay his salaries, and help pay for Orphans of the Storm too. Because of this, and because it was such a popular film, Griffith raised the rental rates on Way Down East, thereby losing good will among exhibitors, which, in turn, at least, partially accounted for the disappointing returns on Orphans of the Storm.
Other factors were involved, too. Audiences of the early 1920’s were turning cynical and jaded; they were getting caught up in the jazzy and increasingly superficial tempo of the times. And they wanted films that reflected those times. Films like Orphans of the Storm, which dramatized what are loosely termed “the old values,” were considered far more out-of-date then than they would be even today. By 1922 this attitude was only beginning to develop. But by 1924 it was in full bloom, and thus audiences had no time for Griffith’s sincere patriotism in America, which dealt with the Revolutionary War. They turned instead to the slick, jazz-oriented films of the day—the kinds of films that Griffith himself had no interest in, but was finally compelled to make, merely to keep active—but not before one last grand, disastrous, and wonderful essay in real film-making: Isn’t Life Wonderful?
Another factor contributing to the disappointing performance of Orphans of the Storm was probably its lack of a strong, popular male star. Initially Griffith had planned to use Barthelmess, who, though unsuited to the role of the aristocratic Chevalier, would certainly have been valuable box-offce insurance. While Joseph Schildkraut was fine in his first American film role, he lacked the virility and sincerity that Barthelmess would have provided. Dorothy Gish, a shrewd and witty observer, pointed out that, especially with the French period make-up, Schildkraut bore an uncanny resemblance to Priscilla Dean throughout the film, “and in the love scenes with Lillian, looked prettier than she did!” However, if there is one serious criticism that can be leveled against the film, it is the obtrusive comedy of Creighton Hale. Griffith, who never regarded one of his films as finished, and continued to tamper with them for revival showings years thereafter, added much of the Hale foolishness after the film was premiered, in the belief that it was needed to lighten the tension. Unfortunately, it became more than a device to pause and relieve tension. It was comedy relief for its own sake, foolish and unfunny, and injected right where it was least needed—in the middle of the escape from the Bastille!
Orphans of the Storm had a pronounced influence on the European spectacles that followed it, notably the French and German, but also, to a lesser degree, the Russian cinema. The famous use of what Seymour Stern has termed “symbolic space” when Griffith, to show omnipotent power, shows the Committee of Public Safety (photographed from above) in the center of a huge, cold, otherwise empty room, was copied intact by Eisenstein in October to show Kerensky installing himself in the Winter Palace. ( This symbolic shot was actually first devised by Griffith for use in a similar context in Intolerance. ) Pudovkin, too, appears to have borrowed from Orphans of the Storm just as he had earlier borrowed from Way Down East.
It is a matter of some interest (and surprise) that Orphans of the Storm was the only Griffith historical spectacle without a villain. Robespierre, and the peasant-turned-judge, Jacques Forget-Not, fulfill all the functions of villainy, but because their transgressions have political and emotional rather than personal roots, Griffith tends to play down their melodramatics and lets them go unpunished at the end—save for a title referring to Robespierre’s own eventual execution. The lecherous Marquis, who, “inflamed by Henriette’s virginal beauty,” kidnaps her and thus separates her from the blind Louise, is a good heavy in the grand manner, but he acts mainly as a plot motivator and vanishes after the first third of the film. The same is true of Sheldon Lewis and the wonderful Lucille LaVerne, who give a couple of grand barnstorming performances, but whose unspeakable evil is unproductive of any real tragedy; they, too, escape without harm. If most of these comments have focused on the film rather than on its stars, it is because Orphans of the Storm is more notable as a Griffith than as a Gish film. This is not to minimize the lovely and sensitive performances of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, or the incredible compositions and lightings of cameraman Sartov, whose close-ups of Lillian have a radiance and beauty unsurpassed in any of her other films. As opposed to Way Down East and even Hearts of the World, acting opportunities in Orphans of the Storm are somewhat subordinated to the surge of melodrama.
Sheer “trouping,” the maintenance of astonishing physical stamina, and the ability to look both fragile and lovely at all times are the main requirement of the roles of the orphans. When a chance arises for sensitivity, or for high-powered acting, it is seized avidly by both sisters. Especially memorable are the gracefully played scenes of the orphans’ departure for Paris, a charming little episode with touching pantomime and some especially lovely close-ups; and the still-poignant scenes in the climactic episodes, when the girls meet again at Henriette’s trial and are separated on the way to the guillotine.
One bravura sequence is the mid-picture reunion that doesn’t come off, with Lillian—hearing her blind sister singing in the street below and being led away—and being arrested, despite her protestations of innocence, before she has a chance to effect a rescue. Griffith never milked a non-action sequence for suspense quite as much as he did this one; indeed, both of the Gishes were of the opinion that it was much overdone. In normal context, it certainly would have been. Since it came immediately before the intermission, however, it must have provided an overpoweringly effective climax to the first half of the film.
Considering the enthusiastic reviews that it had garnered, the disappointing box-office performance of Orphans of the Storm must have been especially galling to Griffith. Even though not the box-office blockbuster he’d hoped for – it was not a failure, however. Thus it became somewhat of a landmark: it was the last Griffith film to be successful both artistically and commercially.
The generic “thing” we think of as Hollywood likes to destroy and bury its past. Most traces of the original la-la-land are dead, buried, and gone. But now the maestro of entertainment history, David Wallace, has unearthed real treasures. Archaeology is a passion of mine. And so are the movies: the history of the movies, the making of movies, and the stars we have all known, loved, or hated. This book combines both of my passions, examining the priceless and fascinating past of Hollywoodland.
Hollywoodland was the original lettering of the famous sign that hovers, iconlike above the Hollywood Hills. Today it exists simply as “Hollywood,” but what a tale Wallace has to tell of how this great symbol fell into disrepair and was almost obliterated altogether.
Here we get the foibles, follies, houses, yachts, cars, studios, and restaurants of the glorious and glamorous yesterdays when stars really caught the public s imagination. This was America s beginning love affair with the cult of celebrity. These were the early silent years when flicks were the opium of the masses and audiences believed every word written in Photoplay and Modern Screen. There was the invention of sound and every other technical achievement one could dream of. But chiefly there were stars and star makers. Can you think of anyone famous today who would lure ten thousand people to a funeral? Princess Diana comes to mind, but in the early screen days William Desmond Taylor lured them because he had been murdered. The silent-screen beauty Mary Miles Minter was implicated in this still unsolved death, and she fainted at his funeral. Lost Hollywood is crammed with such stories.
In film, images (ghosts) of people we love or hate do the things we fantasize about or recoil from in stories and settings equally phantasmal.
The ghosts of Hollywood embody and animate our collective and individual consciences, our ethics, our relationships, our dreams, and our darkest sides. The stories that flicker on the silver screen, and the people who bring them to life—the actors, producers, directors, crews, and publicists—have shaped the way we live. It has been said that the real challenge for a storyteller in relating a pre-Christian tale is to remove Christian values from the characters’ motivations and actions. I believe that for a storyteller a few centuries down the way, it will be even harder to remove values of the movie era from today’s civilization. Film, in its century, has changed civilization as profoundly as Christianity shaped Western culture in the previous nineteen centuries.
Art, architecture, fashion, design, literature, music, dance, social behaviors—even religion itself—have all been consumed by him and changed. Gods and goddesses far more dynamic and powerful than any in ancient mythology have been raised up and cast down.
It was all an accident; Hollywood, that is. The town that would become so proficient at creating fake accidents to amuse, fascinate, or terrify a future audience numbering in the billions was itself a serendipitous product of the right timing and the right location. It was neither a transportation nexus like the river town of Pittsburgh nor a harbor city like San Francisco (or Hollywood’s neighbor, the Los Angeles harbor city of San Pedro) nor a railroad town like Omaha or even nearby San Bernardino. In the beginning, it was nothing.
Nothing, that is, except a place of gentle hills rolling southward below a number of canyons that carried winter runoff from the slopes of the yet-to-be named Santa Monica Mountains near a wide pass that led to the also unnamed San Fernando Valley.
Griffith died on July 24, 1948, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage in that lonely room where, to keep them cool, he often stored apples and sodas on the sill of the window from which he could see his past. (Not far from Griffith’s room Elvis Presley later lived and was inspired to write “Heartbreak Hotel.”)
The only celebrity who visited the funeral home was a director whose fame also stemmed from creating popular epics: Cecil B. DeMille. A few more of Hollywood’s famous, some of whom, like Lionel Barrymore and Mack Sennett, owed their film-career starts to him, showed up for the funeral in the half-filled Masonic Temple. Some, like Mary Pickford, whose career was launched by Griffith when she was sixteen, didn’t show up at all. Many of the funeral guests shunned honorary pallbearers like Louis B. Mayer (who, after his career change from junk dealer to film exhibitor, made a fortune from The Birth of a Nation) and Samuel Goldwyn, both of whom could have given Griffith work in his later years but didn’t.
When he was laid to rest in a tiny, rural graveyard in his native Kentucky, next to his father who first entranced him with the tales of Confederate derring-do that would inspire much of The Birth of a Nation, only one star of the many who owed their careers to him was there: Lillian Gish.
It was a four-hanky story Griffith would have loved filming.
D.W. Griffith was born on January 22, 1875, in La Grange, Kentucky. His father, Jacob, died when David was ten, after a life spent as a sometime politician, full-time farmer, and passionate Confederate loyalist. Davids mother, Mary, was the quiet, affectionate anchor of the family.
Griffith wanted to be an actor from an early age, and for a number of years trod the boards in Louisville and on the road. In 1905, he first visited Los Angeles, cast as an Indian in a stage adaptation of Helen Hunt Jacksons then-popular novel Ramona (Griffith would later use it for a him). The following year he married a fellow actor, Linda Arvidson, and moved to New York City where he tried his hand unsuccessfully as a playwright and looked for acting work. At the suggestion of a friend he ran into in the old Forty-second Street Automat, Griffith decided to look into films—not as an actor but as a scenario writer—to tide himself and Linda over the winter. (Before scripts, demanded by sound, writers wrote scenarios.) It was as an actor that he was hired, first by Edwin Porter (who four years earlier had made The Great Train Robbery) to play the lead in a forgettable him, and then, at age thirty-three, by the Biograph Company as both scenarist and actor. The job changed his life.
Biograph was by 1907 already the best of the early film makers, but like most, it was a small, informal community of largely anonymous talent grinding out two one-reelers a week from its studio in an East Fourteenth Street brownstone. Among those talents was cameraman Billy Bitzer, who, when Griffith’s stage-trained acting proved too overdone for the intimacy of him, suggested that Griffith step in for a sick director. It was also Bitzer who explained to the rookie director how to make his first film, laying out the scenario on a piece of laundry shirt-cardboard. Never, even in the glory days to come when Bitzer and Griffith would essentially write filmmaking’s first grammar, would Griffith work from a written scenario.
And what days they were as commercial success made taking chances possible. Most of Griffith’s hundreds of films for Biograph (141 in 1909 alone!) made a lot of money, largely because he somehow knew what the relatively unsophisticated audience of the time wanted and how to deliver it.
Movies in America – Judith of Bethulia (Her Condoned Sin)
Judith from Bethulia
Judith from Bethulia
One thing Griffith believed was that audiences wanted longer films, films that told a more complete story. So in 1913, spurred by the example of the large-scale films being turned out in Italy, and permanently settled into making movies in the Southern California sun, he made Judith of Bethulia near the present Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley. It was a four-reel biblical epic and one of the first to star the talent who would become Griffith’s most famous discovery; Lillian Gish. It also went overbudget by 100 percent, causing such a row between Griffith and the Biograph management that he formed his own company—and took many of Biograph’s leading talents along with him. Announcing his new company in a now famous advertisement, he took credit for introducing the fade-out (apparently true, although some him historians differ), the close-up, the long shot, crosscutting, and something called “restraint in expression,” certainly related to his earlier troubles toning down his stage gestures for him.
Movies in America – Birth of a Nation
The Birth of a Nation – Massive troop movements wide shot
An amazing series of pictures followed that would make D. W. Griffith the most famous director in the world: The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Hearts of the World, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East, and Orphans of the Storm. The most famous, because it was the most infamous as well, was The Birth of a Nation.
Based on a racist jeremiad of a book and play by Thomas Dixon called The Clansman, the saga of a Southern family torn by the Civil War, appealed to Griffith as a chance to write history from the loser’s point of view. It was unquestionably also an emotional response based on memories of the heroic reminiscences of his father, a twice-wounded Confederate colonel. The movie was made in locations in and around Los Angeles, including Griffith Park, the pine forest near Big Bear Lake, and the countryside near Whittier where the movie’s climactic ride of the Klansmen was filmed. One of the extras in that scene was John Ford, whose future career as a director nearly ended that day when, blinded by his Klan bedsheet, he was knocked from his horse by an overhanging branch; Griffith himself revived him with a shot of brandy.
The Clansman, as it was called in its early release, cost a then-astronomical one hundred thousand dollars to make and promote. Driven by notoriety (including a failed effort by the NAACP to suppress the film entirely), it would make a fortune. How much? No one will ever know exactly because of the standard financial shenanigans employed by exhibitors of the era. The best estimates are somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty million dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that would be around nine hundred million of today’s dollars, making The Birth ofa Nation one of the all-time most successful movies ever made.
Intolerance Babylonian Set
Intolerance – set
Griffith s next film was in many ways both his greatest and his clumsiest. Before the premiere of The Birth of a Nation, Griffith had made a small movie based on a Dickension story of a young couple whose lives are destroyed by a strike. Called The Mother and the Law, it was never released, and the name was assigned to two new stories of injustice Griffith planned to film. Coincidently, he saw Cabiria, one of the hugely successful historical epics then being made in Italy. He was impressed by the ambitious scope of the film, which combined the intimacy of close-up shots with the panoramic grandeur of the burning of the Roman fleet and Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with seemingly thousands of extras and live elephants. Somehow the idea occurred to Griffith of filming a sort of cinematic sermon condemning intolerance by intercutting four stories: the heroic resistance of the Babylonians to the Persian invaders, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the French Huguenots, the original story of the young couple torn asunder by social violence, and three tableaux from the life of Christ. Working as always without a script, Griffith quite literally had no idea when to stop or start on this gargantuan project. He just kept filming, shooting more than a hundred miles of film, which eventually was edited down to three hours and fifteen minutes. Then and for years afterward, Intolerance was the longest film ever made.
Griffith’s colleagues couldn’t figure it out, and neither could audiences, after the effect of the stupendous visuals wore off. But, the film will live as a benchmark in film history, not for the stories it tried to tell, but for the way Griffith told them. Audiences were especially stunned by the sets for the fall of Babylon, with its thirty-foot-high elephants (a direct steal from Cabiria) and its images based on familiar biblical paintings. Few who ever saw Intolerance can forget the scene where the crowded steps of Babylon are first glimpsed from a great distance, then come closer and closer as the camera descends in a gigantically long tracking shot, down and down and down, ending atop Belshazzar’s bacchanal. That sort of shot is done all the time these days with a camera crane, but when Griffith did it in 1914, they didn’t exist. How did he do it?
Griffith and cameraman Bitzer first tried a balloon for the camera and cameraman, but it proved too unstable. Then engineer Allen Dwan, later a director himself, suggested mounting the camera on an open elevator that was itself mounted on a narrow-gauge flatcar on tracks leading to the three-hundred-foot-deep set. So as the elevator was slowly lowered, workmen pushed the flatcar forward. It was the movies’ first crane shot and even today one of the most memorable.
Picture-Play Magazine (Mar 1918) Griffith and the Great War 4
Griffith and the Great War 4
Griffith and the Great War 5
Griffith and the Great War 6
DW Griffith in France 1917
D.W. Griffith in the trenches on the western front
By now World War I was on in all its fury, and because Griffith was easily the most famous film director alive, the British invited him to visit and film footage for use in propaganda pictures. He was the only American filmmaker to visit the front. For Griffith, however, story telling on celluloid was by then becoming more real than the real thing; he would subsequently film frontline action on the Salisbury Plain in England and back home in Hollywood.
Some of that war footage found its way into his next feature, Hearts of the World, a melodramatic look at four war-torn years in a French family’s life. The story, a pastiche of lost and found love, is mostly memorable for Lillian Gish’s wonderful mad scene as she wanders through a battlefield searching for her lover, and the terrific patriotic ending as rank after rank of American soldiers march across the screen. (One side note: In Hearts of the World, Gish’s child was played by Ben Alexander, who would become familiar to a later generation as Sgt. Joe Friday’s sidekick on Dragnet.)
Broken Blossoms – Lillian Gish
Broken Blossoms – Richard Barthelmess and Lillian Gish
Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess in “Broken Blossoms” (Lucy Burrows and Cheng Huan “Chinky”)
Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess – Broken Blossoms
Lillian Gish and Donald Crisp in Broken Blossoms
Griffith’s next film, Broken Blosssoms, was something altogether different; for all intents and purposes it was the first film noir. The intimacy of its story about an abused girl (Lillian Gish) and the Chinaman who tries to rescue her with tragic consequences (Richard Barthelmess) was thrown into high relief by the epic splendor of the films that came before and after.
Pickford, Griffith, Chaplin, Fairbanks – United Artists
United Artists Corporation – Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, David Wark Griffith
In early 1919, Griffith joined Mary Pickford, her fiance Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin in forming United Artists to control the distribution of their films. For Fairbanks, Pickford, and Chaplin it was a great success, not for Griffith, who had nothing to distribute that wasn’t previously contracted. He also decided to open the only studio he ever owned—a mistake in hindsight—in New York’s Westchester County, far away from Hollywood, which since the war had left Europe’s industries in ruins was now the world’s cinema capital.
DW Griffith filming team – Mamaroneck NY – Way Down East
Shooting a scene from Way Down East, Griffith seated below the camera
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith on set
Way Down East – filming the “Ice Floe Scene” (Lillian Gish)
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish (cast and crew)
Way Down East – Vermont
Actress Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Kate Bruce, D.W. Griffith, Mrs. David Landau, Burr McIntosh, Lowell Sherman in a scene from the movie Way Down East
For a while it still appeared that Griffith could do no wrong, especially when the first film made in his new studio was released in 1920. It was far grander than Broken Blossoms and hugely profitable. Way Down East is a creaky story of a wronged woman (Lillian Gish again) who overcomes social prejudice and near death to find true love (Richard Barthelmess again). The films final sequence, a tremendously long chase through a blizzard and across an ice-jammed river as Barthelmess races to rescue Gish, unconscious on an ice floe, was challenging to make (Gish claimed she was on the ice twenty times a day for three weeks and that once her hair froze solid). It was, and still is, breathtaking to watch, and in the opinion of many him scholars it still stands as one of cinemas greatest climaxes.
For all the technical innovations, for all the spectacle and the exciting climaxes, probably the one thing that separated D. W. Griffith from everyone else—and still does—was his uncanny ability to create emotional intimacy, the genius to deliver stunning, flashing moments that bind each individual in an audience to the story on the screen. That happens in the last of his great films. It wasn’t the last him he made, for Griffith’s career was to continue for a number of years before finally petering out in the 1930s, but it was one of the best. Orphans of the Storm was less what it appeared to be (a convoluted history of the French Revolution) than a human drama, the story of a pair of sisters, one blind (Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy, who played the blind sibling), separated by circumstances and the turmoil of the time.
Orphans of the Storm
Orphans of the Storm – Lillian Gish and Monte Blue
Orphans of the Storm – the trial
Orphans of the Storm – La Guillotine …
Orphans of the Storm
Orphans of the Storm – Filming team on the set
La fete from Orphans of The Storm – Henriette kidnapped by Marquise De Liniers …
Despite the formulistic drama (including a Griffith signature rescue chase, an improbably happy ending, and, of course, the restoration of Dorothy Gish’s sight), there is one scene when Griffith, the one-time stage actor—and, of course, Lillian Gish—incontestably proved to the world that great acting can happen in movies too. It happens when Gish’s character thinks she hears the voice of her long-lost sister begging in the street below her room. Griffith films it with one of his trademark backlit, intimate close-ups, the camera frozen as Gish first dismisses the idea and then, as her sister’s voice continues, realizes that a miracle has indeed happened. The intensity is so palpable one hardly breathes.
A future president confronts the evils of slavery in a lost scene from “Abraham Lincoln” (1930)
Abraham Lincoln – lobby card
Griffith would make a few more films, most notably a biography of Abraham Lincoln. But Way Down East was his last box-office success. The times had moved past him. Sound, which he never really understood, arrived along with a new generation of filmmakers who took his many technical advances and streamlined them. But none were ever to improve on the many moments when his emotional lightning struck the hearts of filmgoers.
Lillian Gish Shines in ‘All the Way Home,’ as She and Sister Have in Many Things
By Brooks Atkinson
When the curtain goes up on the second act of “All The Way Home” at the Belasco Theatre, Lillian Gish is discovered sitting primly on a sofa, as the deaf and daft mother of a grown family. The audience applauds before she speaks a word.
The audience is applauding one of the pleasantest American legends. For the Gish girls – Lillian and Dorothy have been through the whole cycle of American show business from road companies in the first decade of the century and the silent films in the second to the theatre of today.
Both of them are about a foot wide and four inches thick, erect and cheerful. Both of them hop around America and Europe whenever anything interests them, and they let out little puffs of enthusiasm as they roll along. They see everything and know everyone. They are as much a part of American folklore as Jack Dempsey, Jimmy Durante and Harry S. Truman. Having been consistently modern for a half century, they give their country continuity.
1960 July 7 LILLIAN & DOROTHY GISH at Spartacus Party, lobby – Astor Hotel
Lillian and Dorothy Gish – Courtain, The Chalk Garden
As one of the players in the season’s most sensitively acted drama, Lillian is very busy now, changing in and out of wig and costume eight times a week; and, like the other actors, talking on the radio whenever she is bidden, “selling. the product,” to use her phrase. But if she were not acting a part or crusading for a cause, she would be busy about something else. Probably she would be putting the finishing touches on her book about D. W. Griffith.
She has never been bored in her life. Years ago, when she was billed in the programs on the road as “Baby Alice” or “Baby Ann,” she took her first curtain call on the shoulders of Walter Huston in a melodrama called “In Convict’s Stripes” or another one called “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” she can’t remember which. In tow of her mother, May Barnard, an ingenue, she and her sister traipsed up and down the land. They learned how to count by watching the man in the box office, and how to read schoolbooks under their mother’s tutelage in dressing rooms and day coaches.
Since her mother had a passion for going through factories, both the Gish girls have a Iong background in factory culture, and to this day they never pass a factory without feeling that they ought to go through it.
When they were in their teens they grew “rather long in the leg” and it was time to make a change. That’s how they ventured into the world of the silent film eventually under the direction of Griffith. Together or individually they appeared in “The Birth of a Nation”, “Intolerance”, “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East” and “The Orphans of the Storm,” all of them regarded as film classics today. ***
Since there was no tradition in film acting, they had to invent one, and they did. For more than forty-five years later they are still known and recognized all over the world. When the Moscow Art Theatre undertook to visit America in 1920’s Stanislavsky and Nemirovitch-Dantchenko studied Griffith films in search of a pantomime style that would make the Russian actors intelligible in a foreign land, and they found a style that they could use.
When Russian actors and dancers come here today, they are inclined to study Lillian as if she were a monument. It is a little disconcerting a gay, incandescent lady who wants to talk and listen.
If she radiates generally goodwill, it is because she is without vanity. That simplifies her life. She does not have to worry about her dignity or about maintaining “public image.” She is less interested in herself than in other people, and she is therefore, still learning.
Having had no formal education she has been a reader of all kinds of books since she first discovered the exciting world of culture in the Twenties. Being aware of the world around her, she has little patience with the introspective school of acting. It does not have enough interest in the audience, she thinks. What moves an actor is a matter of no importance in her view. What moves an audience is.
As one member of a superb company that includes Colleen Dewhurst, Arthur Hill, Aline MacMahon and John Megna, Lillian treats the character she plays in “All The Way Home” as one figure in the delicate fabric of a family play. Everything she does on the stage she does for the play. The applause is for a woman who has always regarded the theatre as an enlightened and practical form of democracy.
The New York Times – Published December 27, 1960
*** Admin note: Dorothy Gish starred only in the last film presented above, (Orphans), she on the other hand was distributed in “Hearts of the World,” “Romola,” and “Remodeling a Husband”, the only movie Lillian Gish directed.
Colleen Dewhurst ALL THE WAY HOME Arthur Miller – Lillian Gish 1960 New York’s – Where
At eleven months, I landed my first job. Most of my peers were three or four years old. Others were jobless until eight or ten. Some of us were local kids. Others descended on Hollywood from Detroit or Cleveland or London or Atlanta. A number spent several years developing their talents before tackling Hollywood. Usually, they took their families with them. In the main, we were Depression kids who supported our families, frequently our studios, occasionally the entire movie industry, and at least once—according to President Franklin Roosevelt—the nation. “As long as our country has Shirley Temple,” FDR reportedly said, “we will be all right.” The 1930s and early 1940s in America were a throwback to the Dickensian era a century earlier, when children were perceived as little adults. Important to Hollywood’s economy and to the public’s need for escape, each of us was a representation, a cliche: Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney were irrepressible little adults who could accomplish more than real adults, and solve their problems.
Jane Withers was the tough kid who broke the rules; Elizabeth Taylor, the symbol of beauty and serene perfection; Jackie Coogan, the little ragamuffin who broke your heart; Roddy McDowall and Freddie Bartholomew expressed intelligence and refinement; Stymie of “Our Gang” was the little “pickaninny,” the only black among us; Spanky, the fat boy of the Gang, was intended to be laughed at. I was Dickie Moore, innocent and pure, who specialized in reconciling wayward