Griffith’s Picture (Orphans) Angers the French – Photoplay 1923

PHOTOPLAY – Vol. XXIII January, 1923 No. 2

Griffith’s Picture Angers the French

“FRANCE has been considerably agitated by our films recently. They banned the German- made “Passion” as “misrepresenting the characters of historical personages.” Du Barry’s little “ladies’ entrance” to the king’s chamber upset Paris a bit. “Passion,” although it was banned, didn’t create half the discussion that Griffith’s “Orphans of the Storm” did when it was released in Paris as “The Two Orphans.” There was an actual royalist riot and all sorts of things were hurled at the screen. The police reserves had to be called.

La fete from Orphans of The Storm - Henriette kidnapped by Marquise De Liniers ...
La fete from Orphans of The Storm – Henriette kidnapped by Marquise De Liniers …

The French critics seethed with anger over the way “D. W.” had changed the period from the reign of Louis XV to the end of Louis XVI’s time in order to make “an American holiday,” as they expressed it. One critic nearly collapsed over the fact that one of the actors carried a modern umbrella and another over the way one of the orphans sings a piece from “Mignon,” written seventy years after the Revolution.

Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish (Promo for Orphans of The Storm)
Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish (Promo for Orphans of The Storm)

L’Action Francaise, the royalist publication, said:

“Griffith considers the Revolution as something sublime and childish, with complications. Liberty, justice, sovereignty, Bastille, guillotine, convention all ring in his head like a lot of nuts in an empty sack. He mixes up and confounds things to such an extent that a cow could not find her heifer in the confusion. He shows the revolutionary tribunal as a group of old fatheads sitting on long wooden benches. The 14th of July had a miraculous effect on them, since he shows them on the 13th as a group of apoplectic skeletons and on the 14th as fat numskulls.

Orphans of The Storm Set DW Griffith

” Griffith’s artistic procedure is as primitive as his ideas. To him no celebration at a chateau is complete without a cluster of poor men hung at the castle’s gate. And this is repeated with a fastidious monotony. “What right has a stranger to come and claim that our ancestors were brutes, idiots and savages? “Would Harding’s government let a film be shown in the states which showed Washington as a vicious and sadistic being, Jefferson as a filthy man, and that made sinister bandits of all the heroes of the war of independence? “

Dorothy & Lillian Gish, D.W. Griffith (President Harding - Orphans of The Storm)
Dorothy & Lillian Gish, D.W. Griffith (President Harding – Orphans of The Storm)

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One thought on “Griffith’s Picture (Orphans) Angers the French – Photoplay 1923

  1. The first time I saw ORPHANS I was in college and renting an attic room in a private home. I was taking some summer classes and worked at the college library. I handled the audio-visual requests and had access to a small collection of 8mm silent films there. One of them was the Blackhawk Films edition of ORPHANS OF THE STORM. I borrowed it one night and brought it back to my hot attic room that had only a small fan for cooling. I set up the projector and showed it on the wall. The image size was only about 2×3 ft if even that and the heat from the projector bulb only made the room hotter than it already was. There was no music of course only what I could imagine in my mind. Despite the heat and the substandard screening conditions, I was fascinated by the film and watched all twelve reels. I’ve seen ORPHANS many times since on the big screen and with live music but that midsummer night’s showing impressed me in a very special way that I’ve never been able to duplicate.

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