Griffith to Stage The Greatest Thing in Life’ Next Monday Evening (LAH – 1918)

Los Angeles Herald, Volume XLIV, Number 33, 10 December 1918

Griffith to Stage The Greatest Thing in Life’ Next Monday Evening

David Wark Griffith is to stage his next Los Angeles opening In person. After departing but once from that custom in the past three years, the master producer states that just naturally he has to have something to keep him busy and Monday night will present his next feature for the Artcraft program at Clune’s auditorium. When Mr. Griffith’s last picture, “The Great Love.” was first exhibited in this city, the producer took on a dejected appearance and walked around the studio like a man who has lost something out of his life. It came out later that the real reason was because he had missed his play time, for these geniuses must have their play the same as other people. To others the exhibition of a picture may be termed work, but to David Wark Griffith, whose very being radiates the spirit and the inclinations of the producer, it is a pleasant bit of variety that refreshes him from his other labors and leaves him still more fit to make better pictures.

motion picture lobby card for the greatest thing in life cve detail2 (library of congress)

So “The Greatest Thing in Life” will see its Los Angeles opening personally conducted by its creator, and the theater and social sets of Los Angeles will again be permitted to attend a Griffith first night in the Griffith manner. Mr. Griffith’s new picture is the second feature he has made for regular release on the Artcraft program. It is a seven-reel production dealing with the heart-breaks caused by the search for ideal love and introducing for the first time in America the real characterization of the French girl who is today playing such an important part in the matrimonial phase of young America’s existence.

DW Griffith in France 1917 D. W. Griffith, American film master
DW Griffith in France 1917

Much of the picture was taken in France at the time Mr. Griffith was abroad as a guest of the British and French government, and the characterization of the girl is done by Miss Lillian Gish, who spent five months in France and England becoming familiar with the character.

motion picture lobby card for the greatest thing in life cve detail1 (library of congress)

Robert Harron characterizes a young American whose ideas of social relationship are those of the overfed and pampered child of riches, who thinks no one is fit to associate with. How he learns to think otherwise comprises the major part of the story. The announcement of the manner In which the play will be staged will be made later.

Lillian Gish in The Greatest Thing in Life’ Next Monday Evening
Lillian Gish in The Greatest Thing in Life’ Next Monday Evening

Lillian Gish as she appears in David Wark Griffith’s latest cinematic achievement, “The Greatest Thing in ’Life,” coming to Clune’s Auditorium next week.

Griffith to Stage The Greatest Thing in Life’ Next Monday Evening
Griffith to Stage The Greatest Thing in Life’ Next Monday Evening

Another Griffith Opening

With the presentation of his next program picture, the Master returns to his former practice of presenting to Los Angeles people his own pictures in his own way. It was Griffith who personally staged the Los Angeles opening of “The Birth of a Nation.” Again, it was Griffith who brought the wonderful stage effects and house appointments that you so gladly accepted with “Intolerance,” and the memory of that wondrous night not many months ago when “Hearts of the World” was shown, is still fresh in the minds of Southland society. Now comes again the master to present “The Greatest Thing in Life.”

The Story

  • Of a happy little girl who, like all other girls, was concerned chiefly with dreaming of heroes and hoping that she should find the ideal love that everybody reads about, but that is so seldom found. She was a real girl, who read the divorce cases like you do, and who thought that Rostand’s Chantecler was something more than an ordinary chicken;
  • Of a certain youth who had somehow connected with the idea that the world had been created for his special benefit and that anything that was done with forethought was so done to suit his convenience. He believed, among other things that there was nobody on earth fit for him to associate with. But this same boy was seeking his ideal love just as the girl was. The large trouble in his case was that he was afraid of spoiling the crease in his Sunday trousers.
  • And of another boy, with a heart like a mountain and a brain like a billiard ball. He considered a chicken a chicken wherever he found it, just like a lot of other boys you know. But even if he didn’t know the beauties of the seventh symphony, he was a good judge of curls and kisses. The thing that set him back in his search for the ideal love was the fact that he had too much of an appetite for garlic.
  • And then all of these three. The girl had to find her ideal love, or there wouldn’t be any story. Just how she found it, and the way she chose between these lovers, is the story Mr. Griffith tells in his new picture.

1-dw_griffith_(1875-1948)

The Misty Magic of the Lens

A new and wonderful achievement in photography comes with the presentation of this picture. It is a discovery that lends the beauty of an etching to the screen portraits that are shown. Again, the Griffith laboratories have wrought a thing of beauty from the little strip of celluloid that passes through the camera. People are made to live and breathe – to stand out in relief from the white background whence they go – and seem pulsing human souls instead of automatons. Only in Griffith pictures is this achievement shown, the newest, the best, the last word in photography.

And there are scenes from France that rival Millet in their wondrous composition and color value. Chateau and the winding Marne, done in a medium never before shown in America.

Normandie and apple blossoms in the springtime of love.

To the lens has come the spell of misty magic.

Clunes Auditorium L.A.
Clunes Auditorium L.A.

Clune’s auditorium, Monday, December 16 – 1918

With:

  • Lillian Gish
  • Robert Harron
  • Adolphe Lestina
  • David Butler
  • Kate Bruce
  • Elmo Lincoln
  • Edward Peil
  • Peaches Jackson

Los Angeles Evening Herald, December 10, 1918

Los Angeles Herald, Volume XLIV, Number 33, 10 December 1918
Los Angeles Herald, Volume XLIV, Number 33, 10 December 1918

(Leatrice Joy recalled a scene in one of the World War I films Lillian Gish made for D. W. Griffith in 1918 and how it influenced her years later in the 1920s.) Lillian was saying farewell to her sweetheart, who was Bobby Harron . . . She was in such pain saying farewell to this fellow she loved so dearly that her expression was almost heavenly. . . .she wobbled her lip a little bit. I’d never seen any expression like that. It was so–oh, it was so heartbreaking. I put it in my little memory and I said, “Someday, I’ll use that.”

  It must have been at least ten years later that I was in a similar scene saying farewell to my soldier sweetheart. When I got to the heartbreaking part, I wobbled my lip and Mr. DeMille yelled, “Cut! Lights! Cameras!” He walked over to me and said, “Miss Joy, will you please stop trying to be Lillian Gish?” I was so embarrassed I almost died. From then on, I thought the best thing I could do was to create my own technique.

  • From the interview with Leatrice Joy in “Speaking of Silents: First Ladies of the Screen” by William M. Drew, Vestal Press, 1989 (page 63):

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