Photoplay Magazine – March 1922
Photoplay’s selection of six best pictures of the month
The Shadow Stage
ORPHANS OF THE STORM—D. W. Griffith
THIS production is so colossal in conception and in execution; its great moments move one so much; its thrills are so stirring, it is difficult to pin it to paper. Griffith has come back with a bang. After “Dream Street,” this great historical masterpiece brings again the Griffith of “The Birth of a Nation” and “Intolerance,” but with an added charm, a new softness, a fresh appeal. He tells an old, old story—the story of “The Two Orphans.” He has retitled it and remade it. Against the bloody background of the French Revolution, Griffith has painted a beautiful picture: a tender portrait of devotion and sacrifice. He has recreated history as no other living man has done. And this is his greatest triumph. It is massive, but it is human.
And let us comment on the very curious fact that the French Revolution is perennial. Somehow it takes hold of the human imagination as can no other great social upheaval in human affairs. Compared with events that have followed, the turbulent period of the Reign of Terror is not on a particularly grand scale: e. g., the Napoleonic wars, and our own great Civil conflict, not to mention the recent World war, and the cruel and bloody Russian revolution.
But it fascinates. Griffith was wise in his choice of a theme for this production. It is spectacular, but it has little moments of very personal appeal—tiny, heart-throbbing seconds on the screen during which you hold your breath for fear you will break the charm and the magic picture will vanish.
You are Henrielte and Louise, or you are the Chevalier de Vaudrey and Danton. You are awaiting the embrace of Madame Guillotine; you are a part of that unforgettable page in the book of the world. No history ever written can begin to compare with this photoplay for genuine instruction. Every child in the world should see it. True, it takes liberties with actual dates and events; but the spirit is there. There are, we said, moments of surpassing beauty — greater than anything ever put on the screen or the stage.
One, the love scene of Henriette and the Chevalier: touching, tender, true. Another, the most dramatic of all celluloid climaxes: the almost-meeting of the two orphans. The thrills come when the heroine is rescued from the guillotine — and this is not the best part of the drama. But much may be forgiven a director who can reach out from the screen and put a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat.
As for the acting — it is superb. First honors go to Miss Lillian Gish. Each new Gish portrayal is finer than the one before. The actress works. With a rare beauty and personal charm, she is not content. Her Henriette is sublime.
Her sister, Dorothy, as Louise, has the second-best role, which she performs with exquisite art. Joseph Schildkraut, as the Chevalier, is charming. But Monte Blue, as Danton, the outstanding figure of the Revolution, is the best man in the cast.
Of heroic mold, he plays magnificently and proves himself one of our few fine actors. Honorable mention to Lucille La Verne, Frank Puglia, Sheldon Lewis, Morgan Wallace, Frank Losee, and the gentleman who played Robespierre so splendidly. The musical score is appropriate.
Once more—don’t miss this.