Baby Camille of Lillian Gish Arouses Critic – By Burns Mantle (Chicago Tribune – 1932)

  • Chicago Tribune – Sunday November 13, 1932 – Page 51
  • Baby Camille of Lillian Gish Arouses Critic

Too Ethereal for New York

By Burns Mantle

New York – Special – The Lillian Gish “Camille” which has been brought down from the Colorado mountains by the Delos Chappels to show these dull easterners what Dumas really had in mind when, eighty years ago, he wrote the story of Marguerite Gautier and titled it “The Lady of the Camellias” – the Lillian Gish “Camille” is at least 99 per cent pure and floats more successfully than any of them. Of course, if Lillian is right and Robert Edmond Jones is right in his direction of her, then it must follow that fifty million Frenchmen have been wrong for eighty years at least. For nothing so etherealized in the way of Camilles has ever been exhibited on any stage in any country since the play became an emotional actress favorite bronchial and abdominal exercise.

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Camille–Gish, Lillian, [And] Raymond Hackett [Made at Chappell Home, Denver]; 1932; Platinum print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas, Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.193

It is Mr. Jones’ contention that Dumas, in fact has literally been this wrong. His heroine, says Robert, though “one of the most famous of all Parisian courtesans, who died and was deeply mourned at the age of 24, was no middle-aged sophisticate, taking quick profit of her life. Instead, she was a young girl who, governed solely by her great heart, rose at last to spiritual heights which have immortalized her.”

Well, there is agreement on a few points. Marguerite was a courtesan, and she was 24. She had had numerous lovers. She had lived hectically. Her pleasant dissipations had undermined her health and she was, it is fair to assume, at least a 24 year old sophisticate.

Camille Cast with R.E. Jones and Lillian Gish in Chappel Garden by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas 1932

A Book and a Play are keeping Lillian Gish for the Public Eye – By Karen Hollis (Picture Play 1933)

“It isn’t the Paris courtesan that she is playing. What she really is playing is Marguerite’s pathos itself, the sadness of the irrevocable of all those memories evoked by the yellowed lace of old hall dresses, by pressed roses found in a book, by the tinkle of dance music played on a harpsichord; the tragedy of fleeting beauty, of love lost, of fragile youth so soon to yield to death.” (Arthur Ruhl)

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Lillian Gish as Camille. Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.309

BROADWAYITES have finally had an opportunity to see Lillian Gish as Camille, and she is assured a place in arguments about illusion in the theater for years to come. Not every one approved her delineation of the role, but every one found some evanescent magic in it. There were harsh words said about her playing the fabulous courtesan as a chaste spinster. There was some confusion over the play being presented in the manner of fifty years ago with quaint lighting, soliloquies, and exrated posturings.

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Lillian Gish, 99, enduring star spanning the history of movies (Chicago Tribune – March 01, 1993)

Chicago Tribune – Monday, March 01, 1993 – Page 55

Lillian Gish, 99, enduring star spanning the history of movies

From Chicago Tribune wires

NEW YORK – Lillian Gish, the last of the great silent film stars who went on to perform for more than 85 years in movies, theater and television, has died at age 99. Her personal manager, James E. Frasher, said she died in her sleep Saturday evening of heart failure.

“She was the same age as film,” Frasher said. “They both cam into the world in 1893.”

Miss Gish still was performing as recently as the late 1980s. In 1986, she appeared as Alan Alda’s hilariously addled mother in “Sweet Liberty” and in 1987 she was praised for her sensitive portrayal of an indomitable old woman in “The Whales of August,” which co-starred another movie legend, Bette Davis.

Mike Kaplan and Lillian Gish during filming for ‘The Whales of August’

“To become an actress, one cannot begin too soon,” said Miss Gish, who made her acting debut at age 5. Under the guidance of director D.W. Griffith, Miss Gish was to become the pre-eminent actress in such classics as “The Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance,” “Broken Blossoms,” and “Way Down East.”

Lillian Gish as Anna Moore – wearing her Wedding Dress – Way Down East

After performing in dozens of one and two-reel silent movies – with running times of 10 or 20 minutes – and then in the longer Griffith epics, Miss Gish made a successful transition into the “talkies” and later into television.

Between film and television roles, she also worked on the stage. In 1930, she starred as Helena in Jed Harris’ Broadway production of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” and in 1973 she appeared as the nurse in Mike Nichols’ revival of the play. She made her last Broadway appearance in 1975, in “A Musical Jubilee.”

Lillian Gish and Mike NicholsUncle Vanya – 1973

Especially in her youth, Miss Gish evoked an aura of fragility, and hers was a vulnerable, waiflike beauty. The renowned theatrical impresario David Belasco pronounced her “the most beautiful blonde I have ever seen.”

Miss Gish, though not always in excellent health, was accustomed to hard work and took a no-nonsense view of her physical attributes.

“I didn’t care about being a beauty,” she said in an interview in 1975. “I wanted to be an actress. When I was in the movies, I didn’t care what I looked like, except for that image up there on the screen. I wanted to create beauty when it was necessary; that’s an inner thing. But if all you have is a façade, it isn’t interesting.”

Throughout her life, Miss Gish remained singularly devoted to her mother and her sister, Dorothy, who was younger, but became an actress about the same time Lillian did. Mrs. Gish died in 1948, after years as an invalid, and Dorothy Gish died in 1968.

Miss Gish never married and leaves no survivors. “I loved a lot of dear men, but luckily I never ruined their lives by marrying them,” she said. “What kind of a marriage would it have been to a wife who worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week?”

FILE – This 1915 file photo shows actress Lillian Gish as she appeared in D.W. Griffith’s movie, “Birth of a Nation.” The film’s cast also included some of the greatest directors of the talking era, among them Raoul Walsh (who played John Wilkes Booth) and John Ford (who played a Klansman). (AP Photo)

The artistic collaboration between Miss Gish and Griffith lasted more than a decade. During that time, she appeared in dozens of Griffith’s short films and starred in most of his critically and economically successful longer ones.

Lillian Gish (Henriette Girard) “Orphans of the Storm”

In some films, she played bit parts; in others, she played several roles; in some, she was the star. All of Griffith’s actors did the same, and it was not until after the success of “The Birth of a Nation” that any received on-screen credit.

Hendrick Sartow, a still photographer who eventually became a cinematographer for Griffith, invented for Miss Gish the “Lillian Gish lens,” *** now called a soft-focus lens, which gives its photographed subject a warmly blurred appearance.

In the mid-1920’s, Miss Gish became embroiled in a long legal battle with Charles Duell, a socialite who had been her financial adviser (and, as she said in 1975, “sort of my Svengali”), over sums she allegedly owed him.

Lillian Gish and The Carrot syndrome 1925

During the trial, Miss Gish munched carrots, and newspaper photographs of her stirred a carrot-chomping fad across the country. Americans had become enchanted with the new artistic aristocracy – the movie stars like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino and Miss Gish.

Lucy’s smile … (Broken Blossoms)

Earlier, after Miss Gish pushed up the sides of her mouth with her fingers to demonstrate feigned happiness in a movie, the gesture became a much-copied fad.

One Romantic Night – The Swan

Miss Gish made the transition from silents to talkies in 1930 in “One Romantic Night,” with Rod LaRocque and Conrad Nagel. By that time, she had signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. “My contract called for six pictures in two years, for which I was paid, I believe, a million dollars,” she wrote.

Lillian Gish as Ophelia and John Gielgud in Hamlet 1936

Miss Gish made a triumphant return to the stage in 1930 in “Uncle Vanya” on Broadway. In 1936, she played Ophelia to John Gielgud’s Hamlet and Judith Anderson’s Queen Gertrude, and, in 1941, she began a record-breaking 66-week run in “Life With Father” in Chicago. In 1960, she starred in “All the Way Home” on Broadway.

Life With Father – Lillian Gish and Percy Waram

When not before the cameras or an audience, Miss Gish toured the world, lecturing and showing Griffith’s classics.

Lillian Gish holding her Honorary Oscar at the 43rd Academy Awards, April 15th 1971. (Photo by Pictorial Parade Archive Photos)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized her work in 1970, *** presenting her an honorary Oscar, and the American Film Institute presented her its lifetime achievement award for 1984. In 1982, she received the Kennedy Center Honor.

1982 DC Ronald Reagan – Lillian Gish (Kennedy Center)

She said current movie-making methods had ruined the quality of acting.

“No one rehearses anymore, so how do you know what to do? They just do takes 100 times over. Now, distributors make more money on popcorn than on the film, and deservedly so.”

Admin note:

*** Billy Bitzer invented the “Lillian Gish” lens not Sartov

*** The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Lillian Gish’s work in 1971, not 1970.

Chicago Tribune – Monday, March 01, 1993 – Page 55 Lillian Gish, 99, enduring star spanning the history of movies From Chicago Tribune wires

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Famous Friends (1977)

Actresses Lillian Gish and Helen Hayes have tea in the Gish home in New York before an outing 1977

Famous Friends (1977)

1977 New York:

Actresses Lillian Gish and Helen Hayes have tea in the Gish home in New York before an outing. Asked about their long careers, they agreed that one should always have curiosity and vitality to carry it out. The two have appeared together only once – in a 1956 CBS-TV special, “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Miss Gish is godmother to Miss Hayes’ son, actor James MacArthur, and to her grandson, Charles Macarthur. (August 19, 1977 UPI)

Lillian Gish and Helen Hayes in Central Park NY 1977 – cab horse

Still Just Horsing Around

Actresses Lillian Gish and Helen Hayes team up to share a horse laugh with another veteran entertainer – one of the few remaining cab horses in New York. The women, friends for 56 years, still continue acting.

Actresses Lillian Gish and Helen Hayes — and one of the few remaining cab horses in New York 1977
Actresses Lillian Gish and Helen Hayes with one of the few remaining cab horses in New York 1977
UPI – Lillian Gish and Helen Hayes have tea in the Gish home in New York before an outing 1977

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ART DECO FASHION – by Suzanne Lussier (2003)

  • ART DECO FASHION
  • Suzanne Lussier
  • BULFINCH PRESS
  • AOL Time Warner Book Group
  • Copyright © 2003 by The Board of Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum

The term Art Deco was employed for the first time in 1968 by the author Bevis Hillier. It identifies an aesthetic in vogue between 1909 and 1939 which was adopted in architecture, the decorative arts, textiles and fashion; it also influenced the fine arts, film and photography. Art Deco displayed stylized motifs and shapes borrowed from national traditions, folk art and ancient cultures, and was strongly influenced by the art of the avant-garde.

Art deco fashion_Tamara de Lempicka 1929

Art Deco emerged from a unique artistic conjunction. From 1905, avant-garde movements sprung up one after another throughout Europe: the Fauves and Cubists in Paris, the Futurists in Italy, the Constructivists in Russia. Meanwhile the Ballets Russes were founded in Russia by Sergei Diaghilev who, wanting to rejuvenate ballet by introducing exotic themes, sets and costumes, employed artists and musicians from the international avant-garde. Too unconventional for the conservative Russian public, the Ballets Russes moved to an ecstatic reception in Paris in 1909, a moment which historians mark as the catalyst of the Art Deco period. Pivotal in the development of Art Deco, the Ballets Russes imbued fashion with its colourful and voluptuous aesthetic through the genius of fashion designer Paul Poiret; its influence in fashion would be felt well into the 1920s. Diaghilev s dance company would trigger a long-lasting vogue for exoticism in dress and the use of luxurious materials, a vogue strengthened by the arrival in Paris of Russian emigres like Natalia Goncharova, and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Natalia_Goncharova_Paris_ca_1915

Freedom was the motif in the emancipated climate of the post-war years. A huge increase in sport and leisure activities, new dances like the Charleston, greater opportunities to travel all ushered in designs adapted to greater flexibility of movement. Gabrielle Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet were quick to embrace these trends and create innovative new lines for the modern, liberated woman.

Madeleine Vionnet – carnival dress

Black-and-white films demanded sharpness in costume and coiffure, and this would establish new references in haute couture and mainstream fashion. American movie stars had a huge influence on fashion, and they helped to promote haute-couture designs. Most of the time, however, producers could only afford one or two hautecouture dresses, so some actresses bought their gowns directly from the designers and paid for them with their own money. Mary Pickford known to go to Paris regularly, and there buy 50 haute-couture designs which she would wear indiscriminately in movies and in real life. American actresses were the first to create a style of their own: Lillian Gish with her pastel muslin dresses, Mary Pickford in ‘little girl’ dresses and Joan Crawford in garments by American fashion designers. Greta Garbo, with her cape and deep cloche, became the epitome of the late 1 920s fashion in American cinema. Period movies and movies set in faraway locations played a major part in promoting exotic outfits.

Renee Adoree and John Gilbert – La Boheme – Musette and Rodophe

*** For her part as Musette in “La Boheme, ” Erte designed a gorgeous frock of huge puffed sleeves, voluminous skirts ami wasp-like bodice. (Incidentally, you fashion devotees, Erte is an arch enemy of that confining mode. It destroys the grace of line, he says, and will never be reinstated in the style world.) ” The first day she looked exquisite—like a doll. But on the second day she insisted that she could not wear corsets and eat —and eat she must, so off came her corsets. She looked like a balloon!” Two sensitive hands made an airy outline of her appearance. But to say a lady looks like a balloon! It simply isn’t done in Hollywood, you know. Not even at ‘”cat parties.”

Renee Adoree and Lillian Gish in La Boheme (Musette and Mimi)

*** And then there was Lillian Gish.

“I designed a pretty costume for her as Mimi in ‘La Boheme.’ Mimi is a poor girl whose poverty is shown in her clothes. Of inexpensive materials I fashioned the dress—of wools and cottons.

” ‘ But no!’ says Miss Gish, ‘I do not wear harsh fabrics next to my skin. They must be of sheerest silk.’

“Silks! Can you imagine silks for a girl who lives simply and whose marriage dowry is a mere tritle!

“So I told Miss Gish she may have the designs—is very welcome to them—but she is never to enter my studio door again. Let her make the costumes herself!”

The French illustrators Paul Iribe and Erte were amongst the first costume designers to work in Hollywood, but their sketches, magnificent on paper, did not translate well to the human body. In 1930, Chanel was offered one million dollars to dress Gloria Swanson, for her role in Tonight or Never, and off-screen as well. Her designs were judged ‘not glamorous enough’ for Hollywood, however, and seemed dated by the time the movie came out.

Art deco fashion – Cover

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Lillian Gish – Photo Gallery III

Lillian Gish – photo gallery high resolution.

For full preview please access the bottom right corner link after choosing the photograph from tiled gallery (changing the view into crawling timeline). The tiled gallery is at the very bottom of this page.

Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson – Hester Prynne and Rev Dimmesdale – The Scarlet Letter
The Wind — MGM — Lillian Gish as Letty Mason – key
‘The Wind’ – Robert Earle and Lillian Gish – MGM last silent
Lillian Gish before the trial – Hester Prynne – The Scarlet Letter
Lillian Gish appears in Annie Laurie – Promo by Kenneth Alexander
Lillian Gish and Norman Kerry – promo for Annie Laurie – inscribed in 1985
Lillian and Dorothy Gish – 1956 – inscribed – autographed
Lillian Gish in The Enemy – behind the scenes –
Lillian Gish as Pauli Arndt – The Enemy – Photo Ruth Harriet Louise
1920s Silent Film Star Pensive Lillian Gish Photo by Richard Burke
1920s Lillian Gish Actress ‘La Boheme’ Oversized DBW Photo by Kenneth Alexander
Lillian Gish – Swedish Photo Postcard – J. Chr. Olsens Kunstforlag. Eneret Nr. 427
Lillian Gish 1915 (Elsie Stoneman) postcard Sweden – Olsens Kunstforlag Eneret 693
Lillian Gish 1915 (Elsie Stoneman) Postcard – Forlag Nordisk Stockholm Sweden
Lillian Gish after a BBC interview May 11, 1969
Angela Chiaromonte at a portrait exhibition – The White Sister – Lillian Gish

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FIFTY FAMOUS FILMS – BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE (INTOLERANCE)

  • NATIONAL FILM THEATRE
  • FIFTY FAMOUS FILMS
  • 1915—1945
  • BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE
  • NATIONAL FILM ARCHIVE
  • Printed by Cox & Sharland Ltd.
  • London and Southampton

FOREWORD

the publication in a single booklet of the Programme Notes covering fifty major films in the history of the Cinema drawn from our own National Film Archive and the Film Archives of other countries is one of several innovations. We believe our members will find it more convenient to have the Notes in this form. Apart from being less expensive for those who come regularly to the theatre, it is hoped that the booklet will have some value as a permanent reference work.

James Quinn – DIRECTOR

Intolerance – Babylon

INTOLERANCE

All Ages:

  • The Woman Who Rocks the Cradle – Lillian Gish

Modern Story (1914 a.d.):

  • The Dear One – . . Mae Marsh
  • Her Father, a mill worker – Fred Turner
  • The Boy – Robert Harron
  • Jerkins, mill magnate – Sam de Grasse
  • Mary Jenkins, his sister – Vera Lewis
  • Strike Leader – Monte Blue
  • Two Crooks – Tod Browning, Edward Dillon

Judean Story (27 a.d.):

  • The Nazarene – . . Howard Gaye
  • Mary, the mother – Lillian Langdon
  • Mary Magdalene – Olga Grey
  • First Pharisee – Erich von Stroheim
  • Second Pharisee – Gunther von Ritzau
  • Bride of Gana – Bessie Love

Medieval French Story (1572 a.d.):

  • Brown Eyes, daughter of a Huguenot family – Margery Wilson
  • Prosper Latour, her sweetheart – Eugene Pallette
  • Charles IX, King of France – Frank Bennett
  • Catherine de Medici – Josephine Crowell
  • Marguerite de Valois, sister of Charles IX – Constance Talmadge
  • Due d’Anjou, heir to the Throne – Maxfield Stanley

Babylonian Story (539 B.C.):

  • The Mountain Girl – Constance Talmadge
  • The Rhapsode, her suitor and secret agent of the High Priest of Bel – . . Elmer Clifton
  • The Prince Belshazzar – . . Alfred Paget
  • The Princess Beloved, adored of Belshazzar – . . Seena Owen
  • The King Nabonidus, ancient apostle of religious toleration – Carl Stockdale
  • The High Priest of Bel, who conspires against the Throne – Tully Marshall
  • Cyrus, emperor and war lord of the Persians,world-conqueror – George Siegmann
  • Gobyras, the Mighty Man of Valour,Belshazzar’s bodyguard – Elmo Lincoln
  • Captain at the Great Gate of Imgur-Bel – . . Ted Duncan
  • Solo Dancer – Ruth St. Denis
Intolerance

Slave Girls, Dancers, Hand-Maidens from Ishtar’s Temple of Love : Virgins of the Sacred Fires of Life : Entertainers at Belshazzar’s Feast, etc., etc.

Alma Rubens, Carmel Myers, Pauline Starke, Mildred Harris Chaplin {Mrs. Charles Chaplin), Eve Southern, Winifred Westover, Jewel Carmen, Colleen Moore, Natalie Talmadge, Carol Dempster, Ethel Terry, Daisy Robinson, Anna Mae Walthall {Anna Mae Wongl)The Denishawn Dancers and other Players from the Triangle Theatre.

Triangle Theatre “stars” and featured players, who played “bit” parts or “extra” roles:

Douglas Fairbanks, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, De Wolf Hopper, Frank Campeau, Donald Crisp, Nigel de Brulier, Wilfred Lucas, Owen Moore, Andre Beranger, Tammany Young, Francis Carpenter.

Supported by a cast of some 20,000 “extras” players, engaged from the populations of the Californian coastal towns and suburbs.

THE FOUR STORIES

To illustrate the philosophy of history as thus outlined, Griffith chose four stories, separate in time and space, but interrelated by the common theme (intolerance), and projected through cinematic “cross-cutting in parallel sequence” {i.e. the action is not shown in the form of four separate stories; instead, the action constantly interchanges between the four stories, thus stressing the Theme common to each). The Four stories of Intolerance are as follows:

(1). THE JUDEAN STORY, or the life of Jesus of Nazareth {A.D.27). This depicts the conflict of Jesus with the Pharisees, the Jewish rabbinate and with Rome. The organized opposition of the rabbinate against the “Man of Men” (subtitle), with his revolutionary “New Law”, is cited as an example of ecclesiastical intolerance, affecting the lives of future millions of people.

(2). THE MEDIEVAL STORY, or the war between the Catholics and the Huguenots, in 16th-Century France {A.D. 1572). The story dramatizes the strife in the 16th century between the Catholic hierarchy of France and the rising Protestant movement; it culminates in a bloody climax—the massacre of the Huguenots, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572. Religious intolerance.

(3). THE FALL OF BABYLON, in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar—an epic of an act of treason by the established theological hierarchy under the dictatorship of the High Priest of Bel. The High Priest fears and fights the introduction into Babylon of new religions from without, and of new liberalising political or social ideas from within. Accordingly, when the State-religion of Babylon is threatened with rivalry—when it can no longer dictate, unchallenged, the pattern of the national culture—then the High Priest and his cohorts among the hierarchy betray Belshazzar’s empire-city to Cyrus, world-conqueror, emperor and warlord of the Persians. Imperialistic-political, religious, and racial intolerance.

(4). THE MODERN STORY (The Mother and the Law) (circa. A.D. 1914). Finally, the Modern Story, the opening sequences of which are the first to appear in Intolerance, dramatizes the struggle between Capital and Labour (class-hatred), in the early years of the 20th Century, in the United States of America. Economic and Social intolerance.

(5). EPILOGUE (The Future). Upon the conclusion of the four stories, there follows an Epilogue, in which Griffith prophesies in spectacular imagery a future Armageddon (or war) for the world; the bombing of New York City in an unnamed conflict of the future; weird modern instruments of war; the ultimate downfall of all worldly tyrannies ; the elimination of prisons and other places of incarceration ; the ultimate liberation of all men and all nations from every form of bondage; the advent of universal peace through universal love; and, at the climax of climaxes, an Apocalyptic vision. This final imagery follows the sub-title: “And perfect love shall bring peace forevermore.”

Intolerance – The End Scene

The theme of Intolerance is the age-old struggle of men against intolerance: or, as Griffith saw it, the struggle between intolerance and love (the film was publicised as “Love’s struggle throughout the Ages”). In order to emphasize that the conflict was a never-ending one, Griffith decided to present it in four separate stories, taken from four periods of history, told concurrently and intermingled as the film proceeds. The narrative is punctuated at intervals by the figure of a mother, rocking “the Cradle of Destiny”. This daring conception is not entirely successful. While it gave Griffith a vast canvas, and enabled him to secure some striking effects of tempo in the relating of one story to another, it also splits spectators’ attention insuperably between the various stories which is doubtless responsible for its ponderous and exhausting effect on most people.

Intolerance

Intolerance was a lavishly expensive film for its period, costing two million dollars to make, (one million came from Griffith’s own profits on The Birth of a Nation). The cost was enormous and no expense was spared to secure realism in the historical settings; the sets for the “Babylonian Story” were constructed full size and it is improbable that their like will be seen again since such effects in a modern film will be obtained more economically by the use of models and other special effects.

“The Modern Story,” in Intolerance was originally conceived by Griffith as a single complete film under the title of The Mother and the Law. It was undoubtedly the social implications in this story which caused Lenin to arrange for Intolerance to be toured throughout the Soviet Union where it ran almost continuously for ten years. It was closely studied by young Russian directors of the new Soviet cinema in the early ‘twenties and it exercised a profound influence on men like Eisenstein and Pudovkin.

Intolerance – Seena Owen and Alfred Paget

The following quotation from Film Notes issued by the Museum of Modern Art Film Library may be of interest.

‘Though Intolerance has been revived time and again, especially in Europe, unlike The Birth of a Nation it was not a popular success. Audiences find it bewildering, exhausting. There is so much in it ; there is too much of it ; the pace increases so relentlessly ; its abrupt hail of images—many of them only five frames long—cruelly hammers the sensibility; its climax is near hysteria. No question but that the film is chaotic, or that it has many faults. The desire to instruct and to reform obtrudes awkwardly. The lyricism of the sub-titles accords oddly with the foot-notes appended to them. The Biblical sequence is weak, though useful dramatically to point up the modern sequence. The French episode gets lost, then reappears surprisingly. And, as Pudovkin says, “There is a strong discrepancy between the depth of the motif and the superficiality of its form.”

‘Of the Babylonian and the modern episodes little adverse criticism is permissible and only admiration remains in face of the last two reels, when the climax of all four stories approaches and history itself seems to pour like a cataract across the screen. In his direction of the immense crowd scenes, Griffith achieves the impossible for—despite their profusion and breath-taking scale—the eye is not distracted, it is irresistibly drawn to the one significant detail. The handling of the actors in intimate scenes has seldom been equalled, particularly in the modern sequence. This searching realism, this pulsing life comes not only from Griffith’s power to mould his players but, in equal measure, from his editorial skill.’

Extras crowd – army from Intolerance

In conclusion, there follows a series of notes taken from the researches by the distinguished American film historian Seymour Stern, which provide further details on the immensity of the undertaking as a whole:

Absence of Film-Script. For reasons of secrecy, Intolerance, the most massive and complex film ever made, was shot from beginning to end without recourse to any form of written Scenario or Script of any kind ! As a result, the nature of Griffith’s film was kept a complete secret, from the first day of “shooting” until the time of its first public exhibition.

The Sets. These are celebrated throughout film history, especially the fabulous sets for the Babylonian story. These sets for “Belshazzar’s empire-city” were erected on a site of 254 acres … it can be said with truth that Griffith built a full-sized replica of the City of Babylon on this site, using for his material mudbrick and wood on stone basis. The towers of Babylon’s encircling walls reached a height of 200 feet, but Griffith’s masterpiece was his reconstruction of the “Hall of Belshazzar’s Feast.” This fantastically enormous set consisted of an immense outdoor Court, centred in terraced steps and lion-headed balustrades, and colonnaded on opposite sides with overtowering, over-life-size sculptured elephants; these were poised, forelegs aloft, on columnar bases fifty feet above the set-floor. The Hall was designed to accommodate, without crowding, five thousand persons at a time.

Crowd-Scenes. In these, as in the sets, everything was on a lavish scale. The largest ‘mass-shot’ in screen history is that depicting the final assault by Cyrus’s Armies on the Walls of Babylon; in this scene, more than 16,000 “extras” appear at one time on the screen. Griffith himself has stated that, during the two years of production, about 60,000 “extras” in all were employed; each was paid $2 a day for eight hours, plus a 60-cent free lunch.

Cost of Production. The total cost of the film, in 1916, was two million dollars. The greater part of the cost went on the Babylonian sequences, which cost in all some 650,000 dollars. Of this sum, some 250,000 dollars was spent on building the Hall of Belshazzar’s Feast, while the ‘Princess Beloved’s’ costume for the same scene cost 8,000 dollars.

Lillian Gish in Intolerance (1916) – The Cradle Endlessly Rocking

In 1936, twenty years after its original release, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ‘budgeted’ the film in an effort to estimate its cost under current conditions. The estimate revealed that if the same film were made in that year by that studio, shot-by-shot as it had been made in 1915-16, but with Union labour, stars’ salaries, etc, and with the addition of “sound”, the production cost would be around Twelve Million Dollars. On a relative scale, therefore, Intolerance remains the most expensive film ever produced in the History of the Motion Picture. The really significant feature of Griffith’s “Babylon” was the fact that, despite all its titanic dimensions, it was completely unplanned; G. W. Bitzer (in charge of Photography of the film) states: “Imagine setting out what were to be the mammoth sets for Intolerance without any sketches, plans or blue-prints at the beginning . . . Griffith, myself and Wortman (Set Engineer) would have a ‘pow-wow’ on the spot . . . that was the beginning of a set for Intolerance, to which, as it progressed and became a fifty-foot high structure, a hundred feet or more long, Mr Griffith kept continually adding . . . eventually, the walls and towers soared to a height of well over a hundred and fifty feet, although the foundations were originally intended for a fifty-foot height!”

Photo Gallery – Intolerance – Behind the Scenes

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