D. W. GRIFFITH’S SUPREME TRIUMPH HEARTS OF THE WORLD
Photo: Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World promotional STAGG L.A.
The sweetest love story ever told A romance of the great war Battle scenes taken on the battle-fields of France (Under the auspices of the British and French War Offices) David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of England
“Hearts of the World” was shown for a tryout at Pomona, California, on Monday, March 11, 1918, and during the rest of the week at Clune’s Auditorium, Los Angeles.
Both Lillian and Dorothy had studied and worked very hard for this picture, and it had been obtained at the risk of their mother’s life and their own. It deserved success, and it had it. Lillian, as the heroine of the story, captured and mistreated, gave a beautiful and pathetic presentation of her part. Dorothy, “the Little Disturber,” a strolling singer, had a role suited to her gifts. A lute under her arm, she romped through the war scenes with a jaunty swagger, which, set to music, was irresistible.
A London street-girl had provided the original. Lillian discovered her one day, and followed her about, to copy her artistic points. Bobby Harron was the hero-lover of the story—a very good story, on the whole—though it was the ravage and desolation of war that was the picture’s chief value.
On April 4, “Hearts of the World” was presented at the 44th Street Theatre, before an invited audience. When, on the following evening, the theatre was opened to the public, seats sold by speculators brought as high as five and ten dollars. There were long runs everywhere. In Pittsburgh, the picture broke all records for any theatrical attraction in that city.
The writer of these chapters saw the film at this time, and again, with Lillian, in 193 1. A good deal of it was remembered vividly enough. It had been the first World War picture, and it remained one of the best. The trench fighting was terribly realistic. There were scenes taken on the field that were war itself. Always, the action is swift. Toward the end of the picture, where Lillian and Bobby are defending themselves against a German assault, it becomes fairly breathless.
Throughout, the picture has a tender quality, in spite of its cruel setting. But there are exceptions to this, one especially: Lillian in the hands of a German, whipped because she cannot handle a big basket of potatoes.
“Did the beating hurt?” I asked.
“Terribly. I was padded, but not nearly enough. My back bore the marks for weeks. Mother was fearfully wrought up over it.”
She approved the picture, as a whole. Thought it better than many of those made today. She was not far wrong. There was more sincerity of intention—more earnest work. At one place, the heroine, through the shock and agony of war, becomes mentally unhinged. Lillian’s portrayal of the gradual approach of this broken condition was as fascinating as it was sorrowful. (Life and Lillian Gish – 1932)
THE BARRE DAILY TIMES, BARRE, VT
November 11, 1918
Same Production as Shown ll Months New York, 5 Months Boston, 6 Months Chicago, 8 Months Los Angeles
No papier-mache scenery, no studio “props,” no supers, no artificialities of any kind figured in filming this wonderful new Griffith masterpiece.
The greatest achievement in Mr. Griffith’s entire career, even surpassing ‘The Birth of a Nation” and “Intolerance.
“A story so sweet it turns the heart to tears; so strong and virile it fires the brain with an amazing fervor; so realistic and terrible that it strikes terror to the very marrow of the bones.”
18 MONTHS IN THE MAKING
(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):