Tears and Cheers for Two Orphans at the Armstrong (The Rock Island Argus – 1922)

Fort Armstrong Theatre - cca 1920
Fort Armstrong Theatre – cca 1920

Monday – The Rock Island Argus – May 15, 1922

Tears and Cheers for Two Orphans at the Armstrong

By J.M.C.

There were tears and cheers for “Orphans of the Storm” at the Fort Armstrong yesterday. Both the afternoon and evening audiences were demonstrative to a degree rarely witnessed at a picture presentation, proving alike the effectiveness of the producing genius of D.W. Griffith and the acting of the Gish sisters and the principals of the company supporting them. “The Two Orphans,” the play from which the film adaptation was made, for many years had a firm hold on the American theatergoing public because of its heart appeal and Mr. Griffith has not sacrificed this tender element in the building of the screened version, although he has introduced numerous thrills and swashbuckling veneering in order to give the production the punch that causes it to stand out as one of the big things of the season. Griffith pulled us all out of our seats with his scenes in “The Birth of a Nation,” he tugged at our heart-strings and caused us to wring our hands with “Way Down East,” and he has introduced in the “Orphans” some of the artistry employed in both of those former plays, with the result that this latest starring vehicle of the Gish girls must be conceded a position along with the finest offerings thus far of the moving picture workshop. Aside from the pathos of the story, there is a sweetness abounding in the heart affairs of the Gish girls, together with devotion shown by the one for her blind sister, that grips you between the climaxes.

gish-sisters-in-orphans-of-the-storm Picture Show may-1922-part-3
gish-sisters-in-orphans-of-the-storm Picture Show may-1922-part-3

The story, as you doubtless know, concerns a period of French revolutionary days, when the masses arose against the aristocracy, and justice and love were substituted for hate and tyranny in government. The Gish girls, to be sure, have much suffering to endure, but they triumph in the end, although one of them almost has her wedding spoiled by the high executioner. Her neck is already on the block and the knife is raised ready to be dropped, when the hero, on a fiery steed, arrives with the pardon. You can even hear the click of the horse’s hoofs on the pavements as the hero nears the guillotine – it’s a thriller, you’ll have to admit – and yesterday evening some folks actually stood and waved their arms and cheered when the execution was halted, for it certainly would have been terrible to see a sweet young thing like Lillian Gish lose her curly little head on a chopping block.

Orphans of the Storm
Orphans of the Storm – Lillian Gish and Monte Blue

Manager Cummings has gone to great lengths in his efforts to conform to the original Griffith presentation, and has received effective assistance from Director Arthur White and his concert orchestra, the full house instrumentation being given in connection with each showing of the picture. A feature originated by Manager Cummings is presented as a prologue to the picture.

Fort Armstrong interior cca 1920
Fort Armstrong interior cca 1920 FOH and stage

This consists of a storm scene, in which a real tree is employed, the branches swaying in the wind, and with the musical and electric embellishments, affords a most impressive feature to the main attraction, serving in the nature of a preparatory thrill. Director White has dug deep in the musical archives in securing airs suited to the time of the story, and some of these are of the kind that stirs one’s blood, affording we of the present generation opportunity to appreciate the chivalry and daring of the men of France of those early days. Further realism is had in the use of real water in the rainstorm, the clicking of the hoofs during the dash of the army horses, and the reports of the cannon during the battles, these latter stage effects being exceptionally well presented – a treat that is not usually experienced in connection with a picture.

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 …

Owing to the length of the pictures – it occupies almost three hours, with an intermission of 10 minutes – there will be only two performances of the “Orphans” at the Fort Armstrong during the week’s engagement. Manager Cummings says that the picture could be cut, but he would not risk doing this for the sake of squeezing in an additional performance. He wants his patrons to get the picture as it was originally presented under Griffith’s direction, and with that end in view he has been careful not to neglect any of the atmospheric details. While the Gish girls stand out as the featured players, there are several excellent characters in the “Orphans.” Mr. Griffith again having proven his keen sense of values in screen effectiveness in selecting types for certain difficult roles.

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Movies in America – By William Kuhns – 1972 (D.W. Griffith)

Movies in America

By William Kuhns – 1972

Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Later Years

By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, movies had established themselves as a new king of entertainment, a pleasant way to spend an evening or an afternoon. But most movies were still relatively crude, unimaginative things immensely dependent on the stage conventions that they had unwittingly inherited. Scenes were depicted in long, single shots from a single perspective; stories were simple and either mawkish in their sentimentality or obvious in their contrivances, or both. The movies were popular, but they were still only a faint glimmer of what they might one day be. Between 1910 and 1920, two men did more to reshape the medium than anyone else ever would. One gave it a grammar and a syntax: a range of techniques which lifted the use of the camera out of theatrics into film art. The other, the first and greatest star of them all, made the screen come alive with a poetry and a pathos never before known and never since recaptured. Between these two men, the movies took on a new stature and significance. A novelty became an art.

Movies in America - David Wark Griffith
Movies in America – David Wark Griffith

In 1924, Griffith wrote the following lines (Colliers, May 3, 1924):

The motion picture is a child that has been given life in our generation. As it grows older it will develop marvelously. We poor souls can scarcely visualize or dream of its possibilities. We ought to be kind with it in its youth, so that in its maturity it may look back upon its childhood without regrets.

Read today, the lines ring with a fine irony. Because of Griffith, the movies rose far beyond what anyone in the first decade could have believed possible. Moreover, he —more than any director of the period — made it possible to look back upon the childhood of the movies “without regrets” and better, with wonder and awe. The curious thing about this greatest of all directors and innovators of the American film is that he never really wanted to get too involved in movies. As a part-time actor and would-be writer, the young Griffith looked upon movies much as other stage actors and writers did at the time: as a crass novelty, without a future, without either substance or the possibility of sub- Stance, Indeed, Griffith used the name Lawrence Griffith throughout his early movie career He was convinced that one day he would step out of films and make a great name for himself as a writer. Only then would he begin to use his real name. Griffith was the fifth child of an impoverished Kentucky family. He grew up amid an aging but still powerful Victorian system of beliefs—Southern romanticism and a haughtiness that would affect all of his work, often marring the best of it. The young Griffith worked as a sales clerk, a newspaper reporter, and, most assiduously, as an aspiring writer.

Lawrence Griffith, third from left at back, with the MeffertStock Company, Louisville, Kentucky 2897-98
Lawrence Griffith, third from left at back, with the MeffertStock Company, Louisville, Kentucky 2897-98

He published an occasional story or play, but was not very successful. He also dabbled in acting. In New York City in 1907, an actor friend suggested that he work temporarily for Biograph. Griffith applied and attempted to sell a story to Edwin Porter. Porter turned down the story but offered Griffith the lead role in his next picture. Griffith took it, and, unwittingly, began one of the greatest careers in the industry.When Griffith was first offered an opportunity to direct a movie, he was reluctant. Should he fail at that, he thought, he would be out of an acting job. But, after a few pictures, it became apparent that Griffith’s metier in the movies was not acting, or even writing, but directing. Griffith improvised, invented, polished, and experimented endlessly. Between 1908 and 1912, he fashioned, single-handed, a new range of expression for the movies. He transformed editing from the stage-dominated succession of scenes to a visual dynamic that shuttled time and space to achieve dramatic impact. He made the close-up a standard technique of movie making. He developed editing principles that made it possible to jump back and forth between scenes at a quickening pace, thereby achieving a dramatic momentum never known before in the movies. He experimented with lighting, to achieve tonal qualities and mood. He lured good actors from the stage and—something hardly known in movies at the time—made them rehearse before shooting a scene, thus creating a fresh realism.

Griffith Early Biograph career
Griffith Early Biograph career

The success of The Birth of a Nation hardly stemmed Griffith’s desire to make more movies, even larger in scope and conception than what was already acclaimed as his masterpiece. At 39, he felt his future as a filmmaker was before him. He had changed his name (shortly after leaving Biograph) to D. W. Griffith and accepted film as his chosen career. In preparing his next project— a multi-episodic movie based on the theme of intolerance—he said, “If I approach what I am trying to do in my coming picture, I expect a persecution even greater than that which met The Birth of a Nation.” Intolerance was a daring film. Its structure was unique, its conception original, its cost extravagant. The film was to include four separate stories: “The Mother and the Law,” based on the then-prominent Stielow case; the fall of Babylon; the story of Christ; and the massacre of the Huguenots on the Eve of St. Bartholomew. Each story was to be separate, but interlinked in theme (and editing) with the others. As Griffith explained, the stories “will begin like four currents looked at from a hilltop. At first the four currents will flow apart, slowly and quietly. But as they flow, they grow nearer and nearer together, faster and faster, until in the end, in the last act, they mingle in one mightly river of exposed emotion.”

Production of Intolerance was so expensive that it forced Griffith to go heavily into debt. At $2,000,000, it was clearly one of the most expensive films of the silent era and, at 13 reels, one of the longest. The film opens with a statement of the theme and the image (which recurs throughout it) of a mother cradling her child—for Griffith, the symbol of people victimized by intolerance. Each story is told only in part, then abruptly followed by the proportionate aspect of another story. Through this technique, Griffith intended to use editing to show the thematic similarities between the stories—how intolerance is the same in every age. His technique is superlative: the film is full of startling juxtapositions that bring out the comparisons he wanted. As Jesus weaves his way to Calvary, the film cuts to a girl rushing to forewarn Balthazar that the priests have betrayed him. As the Huguenot battles through the streets to rescue his lover, the wife of a condemned convict rushes to the prison with a pardon.

Griffith uses tension and suspense in the film as they were never used before: to propel the action to ever spiraling heights, holding the audience captive with the images rushing across the screen. The production was opulent. The gates of Babylon stood hundreds of feet high while thousands milled below. In the banquet scene of the Balthazar story, Griffith spent a reputed $25,000 for the lavish effects. The cast was enormous, the sets magnificent. And as ever, Griffith’s cameras recorded not only the scope but the minor details that gave even greater credibility and meaning to the scene: the faces, the costumes, the finely-honed spear points. Griffith used a number of techniques which had been anticipated in earlier films.

Intolerance
Intolerance – Babylon

Now, he gave them greater scope and development than ever before. He experimented throughout with various framing devices: irises to concentrate on a face or an action, wipes that moved across the screen in specific relationship to some object on the screen (one, for example, began at the monstrous Babylonian gate and moved outward, parallel to the gate). He used tracking shots often; one traveled for several hundred feet, from a distant shot of the entire Babylonian set to a medium shot of one scene.

Intolerance
Intolerance

Nonetheless, Intolerance was an uneven film: in some ways, the greatest of Griffith’s movies, in other ways the most faulted. The enormous sets, particularly in the Babylonian sequence, tended to distract from the story. As a reviewer for Photoplay remarked, “The fatal error of Intolerance was that in the great Babylonian scenes you didn’t care which side won. It was just a great show.” Moreover, of the four stories that Griffith promised, he only delivered two—the contemporary story (the best developed) and the Babylonian story—more of an epic spectacle, really, than a story. The narrative in the Christ and Huguenot episodes was weak, and audiences tended to wait out those episodes to find out what was really happening in the exciting stories. Finally, Griffith’s own sentimental bias hurt the film. He used names such as “Little Dear One” and “Brown Eyes” for characters—something that had generally vanished from filmmaking before Griffith left Biograph. Some of the violence—such as cutting off a head—was downright gory and gratuitous.

intolerance-1916-lillian-gish-the-cradle-endlessly-rocking

Nonetheless, one can’t help but feel that, with Intolerance, there was more at stake: that Griffith was reaching for further degrees of experimentation, struggling to find some new unifying principle to advance the art of film, much as he had in Birth of a Nation. If Griffith did fail, it was perhaps partly because of the enormous distance between what the audiences could cope with and the limits to which Griffith wanted to test the manipulation of form. The failure that crippled Griffith most brutally, though, was not the film’s artistic failure, but the fact that it flopped so badly in the commercial market. It would take him years of work on movies without total creative independence to repay the debts incurred by Intolerance. With the loss of his creative freedom, Griffith lost much of his enthusiasm for endless experimentation. Eventually, despite glimmers and sometimes brilliant moments of creative achievement, Griffith’s work sank to the level of cheap potboilers. By the mid-twenties, he was turning out cheaply produced, barely cared for movies that suggested only dimly the creative talent of the man who had made them.

Movies in America - Judith of Bethulia (Her Condoned Sin)
Movies in America – Judith of Bethulia (Her Condoned Sin)

The decline of Griffith is a sad epoch in film history, but one that reveals something about the precarious relationship between art and industry in filmmaking. The Griffith of the Biograph years, of Judith of Bethulia, of The Birth of a Nation, of Intolerance, was a creative, experimental spirit searching for the best ways to use the medium to communicate powerfully to audiences. The later Griffith was far more concerned with fame and wealth and recognition; he seemed to care less about what he did with a film than how boldly his name was printed on it, and with the money a film would make. There were other reasons behind Griffith’s decline. His Victorian sentimentality, which had marred earlier films, now seemed even more pronounced—and more obviously out of step with the changing tastes of audiences.

His interest in film itself declined; he spent more time writing on various themes like the future of movies, planning extravagant projects that never materialized and speaking on various subjects to whomever would listen. Griffith made two features during World War I: Hearts of the World and The Great Love, both of which were thin reflections of his talents and barely shaded forms of propaganda. After the war, he returned to the type of films he had been doing: soft, melodramatic romances, which of course had lost virtually all their appeal for postwar audiences. The industry at large was foundering, searching out new subjects for film; Griffith, too, foundered. For a time, he wandered between production companies.

Then, in 1919, he became part of the organization that formed—with Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks—United Artists Corporation. The prominent names that formed United Artists guaranteed it financial backing. But it also forced the company to aim its products straight at the box office, a quality tacitly present in the films of the other three, but dangerous for Griffith. Griffith’s first movie for United Artists was Broken Blossoms (1919).

It was also his last major movie. Broken Blossoms is a film that vacillates between a genuine poignancy and a number of novel effects and gimmicks that Griffith included largely to guarantee its commercial success. The story of a Chinaman’s affection for a badly treated girl, Broken Blossoms uses sets in a quiet, natural way both to achieve a sense of realism and to evoke mood. Lillian Gish, playing the girl, acts with a gracious naturalness and believability. The editing in some of the sequences—such as the brutal beating of Gish—belongs among the best of Griffith’s work. Broken Blossoms was received well. The New York Times called it “a masterpiece” and the New York Evening Telegram described it with the statement: “It is as if Dickens had spoken by means of the camera.” The film’s success, both critical and commercial, did a great deal to improve Griffith’s sagging reputation. But it also convinced Griffith that he was everything the critics and public said he was: “Our Greatest Poet,” the “Shakespeare of the movies.” He began announcing even greater things: a film 72 reels long; a chain of theaters bearing his name. Griffith the filmmaker had become Griffith the publicist — and a self-publicist at that. The films he made seemed to lack his imagination, and were gradually either delegated to others or made with peremptory speed and with as little imagination and innovation as possible. Yet Griffith had made film history. He had taught the movies to move, to expand beyond the limits imposed upon them by the stage, and to speak with an eloquence and a power never known before. For that Griffith cannot be forgotten.

DW Griffith in 1943
DW Griffith in 1943
Movies in America - Cover
Movies in America – Cover

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“Love’s struggle through the Ages” – There was a curse upon it. (Photoplay – 1925)

Photoplay – Volume XXVII Number Two, January 1925

(“Love’s struggle through the Ages” – There was a curse upon it.)

Griffith Comes Forth with Big Ideas

His bigger idea, on the theme that he called “Love’s struggle through the Ages,” and which more actually was the villainy of hate through the ages, was now to use “The Mother and the Law” as the modern example in a composite review of historic intolerances. As the notes fell together the Griffith story moved like a Bach fugue, written in Wagnerian thunder, through Babylon of 539 B.C., through Judea in 27 A.D., and France of 1572. The transitions and interludes were to be filled with a picturization of the idea from Whitman, described by Griffith as “A golden thread, binds the four stories—a fairy girl with sun-lit hair—her hand on the cradle of humanity — eternally rocking—.” This came to the screen with Lillian Gish photographed in mysterioso half-lights. So with zealous abandon the Griffith lot in Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, became a maelstrom of costly construction. There he built Babylon with its walls three hundred feet high, the architectural pretentions of mediaeval France, and the streets of ancient Judea. The most stupendous expenditures were incurred. There were weeks on end when the daily payroll of the literal armies of actors totalled $12,000 a day. The banquet hall scene for the feast of Belshazzar cost just a quarter of a million dollars.

Intolerance Babylonian Set
Intolerance Babylonian Set

The cast included many famous screen names, among them, Sam de Grasse, Joseph Hennabery, Tully Marshall, Elmer Clifton, Signe Auen, Bessie Love, and Ralph Lewis. Count Eric von Stroheim played a Pharisee, and becoming a director since has developed a habit of shooting everything to the vast “Intolerance” scale, regardless. Constance Talmadge played “the Mountain Girl,” a role which brought her first attention and opened the way to a star career, beginning under Selznick auspices soon after. “Intolerance” Costs $1,900,000.

When the totals were cast up at the end “Intolerance” had cost $1,900,000. It was some thirteen thousand feet in length, cut from three hundred thousand feet of negative. Let us recall in contrast now that Edison spent $24,000 inventing the motion picture, and that at the end of 1895, the first year of production, the total cost of all the motion pictures in the world to that date was $ 100. “Intolerance” in thirteen thousand feet was just twenty years after “Annabelle the Dancer” in thirty five feet, the sensation of 1895. “Intolerance” opened at the Liberty theater in New York, the scene of “The Birth of a Nation” triumph, on September 6, 1916. It played in legitimate theaters in all the major cities here and abroad. It was inevitably a sensation and the topic of considerable debate. Despite a considerable patronage it was unprofitable.

Intolerance - set
Intolerance – set

The American audience of the motion picture then numbered probably some twenty millions. It would be a reasonably accurate estimate that less than half a million could know what “Intolerance” was about. Whole audiences came away from the theaters, awed and overwhelmed with the immensity of the spectacle and bewildered by the picture fugue treatment of the theme. Mostly the theme was lost. Griffith, who, above all others, had evolved a screen technique of close-up and cut-back to clarify plot movement and to make attention unconscious and automatic, had betrayed them. Here was a picture which required conscious attention, some thought and a reasonably capable memory. The public, measured in terms as represented by the average of the motion audience, does not go to the theater to intellectualize. That is no indictment of the motion picture and its following. The public never goes anywhere to intellectualize. Audiences are to be counted in thousands, students are solitaries, each in his niche, to be counted one at a time. There is no box office revenue in units of one. “Intolerance” told its real story to a few thousands, but it needed the patronage of millions to make it commercially rival “The Birth of a Nation” which it considerably surpassed as an expression of ideas. One may fancy that the Babylonian spectacles of “Intolerance” shown alone as a complete production would have done about as well at the box office as the whole potpourri composite.

Intolerance
Intolerance

Backers of “Intolerance” are clamoring for Dividends

Griffith’s most dramatic gesture concerned with “Intolerance” has never become known to the public at all. His backers and investors in “Intolerance” put their money into the picture expecting another box office miracle like “The Birth of a Nation.” When it did not materialize they grumbled and after grumbling a while began to roar. This was disturbing to Griffith on two counts. It pained his pride and it threatened, if the grumblings reached the public, to adversely affect the mystic glories summed up in the superman myth which named him “The Master.” Griffith engaged to buy the interests of his co-investors in “Intolerance,” something in the vicinity of a million dollar item for “The Master.” This single item, and others a little like it exerted a determining influence on all of Griffith’s subsequent productions, by raising the cost of capital for his later enterprises.

Intolerance
Intolerance

The month of the presentation of “Intolerance” brought an odd, faint echo of the name and fame of Griffith. With promises of an unsupported pretention a seven part picture entitled “Charity” was given a showing to the state’s right market at Loew’s Roof in New York. This picture was produced by Frank Powell, who had been a member of the old Biograph organization and who had brought Theda Bara to screen fame in “A Fool There Was,” a Fox picture. “Charity” for a combination of reasons was a dismal thing. The scenario idea on which it was based was from Linda Arvidson Griffith, Mrs. D. W. Griffith, who had been living apart from her husband several years while he travelled the path to “The Master’s” throne alone.

The mother and the law-1919-lobby-card
The mother and the law-1919-lobby-card

Now it may have been sheer coincidence that Mrs. Griffith’s picture drew a cold abstract title like “Charity” just when Mr. Griffith’s picture attained the bald abstraction of “Intolerance.” It may also have been a coincidence that the keynote of “The Mother and the Law” part of “Intolerance” was struck by the experiences of Mae Marsh in the heroine role as a victim of a corrupt orphanage, while “Charity” devoted itself to an alleged exposure of corrupt orphan asylums. If so, this thematic coincidence under the simultaneous presentations of the far separated Mr. and Mrs. Griffith seems most astonishing. “Charity” was produced with the backing of a wealthy New York brewer, who presently withdrew from the project because of pressure from religious organizations who considered the production an attack.

Griffith and Bitzer on set filming a scene 1919
Griffith and Bitzer on set in action

The public heard a great deal of “Intolerance” but “Charity” remained in obscurity. It was drab and sordid, alarmingly faithful to the portrayal of slum life. The cast included Mrs. Griffith, Creighton Hale, Sheldon Lewis and others of equal ability and fame. Two years later the picture fell into the hands of the slowly decomposing Mutual Film Corporation. It had a Chicago premiere on Michigan avenue, opened with profound prayer by a bishop, and some incense. Even prayer was unavailing. In 1020 “Charity” re-edited and re-titled as a roaring and violent melodrama, shorn of propaganda, made a third equally insignificant sally on the state’s right market.

There was a curse upon it.

Intolerance
Intolerance – DW Griffith

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D.W. Griffith - Photoplay 1924 (Photoplay Productions Ltd.)
D.W. Griffith – Photoplay 1924 (Photoplay Productions Ltd.)

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The Enemy (MOVING PICTURE WORLD December 31, 1927)

MOVING PICTURE WORLD December 31, 1927

Through Box Office Windows

Looking at the week’s showings with both eyes on the ticket selling angles

The Enemy

Charming Pollock’s Impassioned Appeal for Peace Offers Interesting Study to Better Class Patron

Ralph Forbes, Lillian Gish and Fred Niblo - The Enemy Moving Picture World 1927
Ralph Forbes, Lillian Gish and Fred Niblo – The Enemy Moving Picture World 1927

CHANNING POLLOCK’S idealistic and somewhat hysterical diatribe against war and its horrors has come to the screen to teach the lesson intended by the author and also to point the unintended moral that after war things go on pretty much the same until the next one.

Lillian Gish, Ralph Forbes, Fritzi Ridgeway, John S - Wedding - The Enemy
Lillian Gish, Ralph Forbes, Fritzi Ridgeway, John S – Wedding – The Enemy

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Lillian Gish in “The Enemy”

From Channing Pollock’s play

Directed by Fred Niblo

A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Picture

Lillian Gish, Ralph Forbes silent film The Enemy orp
Lillian Gish, Ralph Forbes silent film The Enemy orp

THE CAST:

Pauli Arndt …………………………………. Lillian Gish

Carl Behrend ……………………………. Ralph Forbes

Bruce Gordon ……………………….. Ralph Emerson

August Behrend ……………………. George Fawcett

Prof. Arndt ……………………………….. Frank Currier

Mitzi Winkelmann ………………. Fritzi Ridgeway

Fritz Winkelmann ………………….. John S. Peters

Jan ………………………………………………….. Karl Dane

Baruska ………………………………………. Polly Moran

Kurt …………………………………… Billy Kent Shaefer

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes (The Enemy)
Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes (The Enemy)

Carl Behrend, a German, and Bruce Gordon, an Englishman, are graduates of the University at Vienna in 1914 and pledge eternal friendship. War is declared and the erstwhile chums become bitter enemies. Carl is called to the colors on his wedding night, leaving Pauli Arndt to the care of her father, a Professor in the University, a kindly old dreamer, whose pacific teachings cause his dismissal. Reduced to dire want through a quarrel with Carl’s father, a profiteer, the child dies and word comes that Carl has been killed. Eventually he returns and once more Professor Arndt teaches tolerance as the one cartain cure for war.

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes in The Enemy (MGM, 1927). Portrait Photo 11

The effort to make the demanded happy ending almost entirely nullifies the propaganda of the author. The story has been carefully brought to the screen by Agnes Christine Johnston and Willis Goldbeck, and has been staged with every care by Fred Niblo, but it is to be questioned whether the play will make appeal to the masses, and even its Broadway success is somewhat doubtful. “The Enemy” is a play of words and thoughts, not of action, and dramatic as the underlying thought may be, the silence of the screen reveals mostly the action. The action in itself is vivid, hysterically so, for the director has sought to achieve this quality which is the essence of the story itself. There are a number of impressive sequences, and the most impressive of these is perhaps that in which Carl, on brief leave, comes to his home only to find that his wife and her father are gone. The bleak desolation of these untenanted rooms with their unwashed dirt and cold emptiness has been made finely pictorial, and is far more impressive than other scenes which are intended to have stronger effect. For the screen, the story is weakened by the happy ending, which may send the spectator out in a cheerful frame of mind, but which does not leave him impressed. The logical ending would be the extinction of them all. It would perhaps hurt the ticket sales, but probably not as much as might be supposed, for this ending is not convincing.

Most of the interest goes to Lillian Gish, who never has done a more honest bit of acting. It is earnest, sincere, and save where the author grows over hysterical, convincing. It rises superior to her “Hester Prynne” and atones for “Annie Laurie.” Ralph Forbes, as the young husband, is given less chance, but – is straighforward and appealing. Frank Currier does his best to make Arndt human, but the character sketch is almost too saccharine. George Fawcett, as the profiteering father of the boy, fares much better. Karl Dane and Polly Moran look after the comedy relief competently, and Dane has one brief moment in which he is permitted to get away from the comedy and show he can do tragic work. It is brief, but effective. The settings are excellent and did this come from some German studio, it would be acclaimed a cinematic triumph. Coming from Hollywood should not alter its status.

“The Enemy” is strong food for better minds. —SARG.

Moving Picture World (Dec 31 1927) The Enemy
Moving Picture World (Dec 31 1927) The Enemy
The Enemy
The Enemy

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The Real Sirens of the Screen – By Agnes Smith (Photoplay September, 1926)

Photoplay September, 1926

The Real Sirens of the Screen

By Agnes Smith

The vamps get the publicity, but the Good Little Girls almost always get the nice contracts.

Read on—and learn about women from them

 

A SIREN, as any child or censor knows, is a lady with sex appeal. And sex appeal, according to the same authorities, is a quality made manifest by mascara-ed lashes, jet black hair, spangled gowns, rouged lips and a gift for holding in the clinches. Hence a legend of the screen : That all little girls born with black hair and snapping black eyes are little devils. And, conversely, that all little girls born with light hair and blue eyes are little angels. The Latins are the lovers; the Nordics the angels. And so if we were foolish enough to take a vote to find the most dangerous woman on the screen, the Pola Negris, the Nita Naldis, the Lya de Puttis and the Dagmar Godowskys would get all the ballots. For several years Barbara La Marr summed up in the public mind all that was most sirenic in femininity. Poor Barbara, who loved ’em and left ’em! Poor Barbara, who paid her own way in the world and paid so dearly! And, if we were even more foolish and started a national election to vote for the noblest specimens of womanhood on the screen, the Lillian Gishes, the Lois Wilsons and the Irene Riches would come out on top.

Lillian Gish 3707 cca 1915

Lillian, undoubtedly, would poll the biggest vote as the actress who, above all others, stands for all that is spiritual, all that is ethereal and all that is removed from the mundane. Isn’t it well-known that directors must beg Lillian to allow herself to be kissed? Isn’t it true that Lillian lives for Art, and Art alone? Has anyone ever caught Lillian in a night-club? Or doing the Charleston? Or getting herself married and unmarried?

Lillian with sex appeal? Well, hardly. Lillian is a straight-up-and-down girl, inclined to be skinny. She wears long skirts and dresses cut high in the neck. Her wispy blonde hair is unbobbed and worn in a knot at the back of her neck. Her features are negative. Her eyes are light. There are none of the outward signs of lure about Lillian. And yet the two men who were, to all outward appearances, responsible for Lillian’s rise in the screen world are today flat broke. D. W. Griffith, who gave Lillian her first lessons in acting, who placed Lillian in the leading roles of his great pictures when Lillian’s name meant nothing, is, according to the words of Lillian herself, “As poor as a church mouse; as poor, in fact, as on the day when he started producing.”

Charles H. Duell - Inspiration Pictures Director
Charles H. Duell – Inspiration Pictures Director

Charles Duell, Lillian’s second producer, who pushed her into even further prominence when her drawing power was still doubtful, is also broke. And not only is he broke, but he is threatened with disbarment from the practice of law and no longer connected with the film business. His contract with Lillian caused the trouble.

Silver Nitrate White Sister Lobby Card Negative
White Sister Lobby Card (Inspiration Pictures)

But Lillian, the spiritual, the ethereal and the unmundane, is getting a salary of $5,ooo a week. Griffith, still again quoting the words of Miss Gish, is “making pot-boilers for the mob.” Lillian is selecting her own stories, her own casts, her own directors. Duell isn’t making any pictures at all. But Lillian is making specials for what she calls her “two dollar public.”

No sex appeal? If not, then, to paraphrase Anita Loos, the title of Lillian’s little history should be ” Stronger Than Sex.” No star on the screen has a story so picturesque as that of Lillian. In a business that demands superlatives, Lillian has forged ahead to the foremost rank without great beauty or radiant personality. Great Art? Perhaps—and why not? Lillian has worked only for the greatest directors; first Griffith, then Henry King, then King Vidor, now John Robertson. All her scripts have been tailored to suit her. The best cameramen have photographed her.

And all the little actresses who try to do their best in routine productions, uncongenial roles and scrambled and hurried program films, admit that Lillian is the greatest of them all. They admire her and envy her and sometimes wonder just why she is called the “Duse of the screen.” It couldn’t, of course, be sex appeal. Sex appeal is only a crude quality possessed by flappers and vamps. Nevertheless, of all the promising young actresses who started under the direction of Griffith, Lillian was the one who got the biggest roles in the biggest pictures and the biggest chance to shine. There was something about the aloof, the elusive and the child- Lillian that appealed to the imagination of the greatest director of them all.

"Parting of Ways" finally a high resolution - From left Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Dorothy Gish aboard cruise ship, on their way to Europe, 1920s
“Parting of Ways” finally a high resolution – From left Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Dorothy Gish aboard cruise ship, on their way to Europe, 1920s

Lillian was wax to mold and marble to retain. Sister Dorothy was a pretty little clown. Mae Marsh was a sharp-tongued Irish girl. Blanche Sweet was a temperamental romantic. Miriam Cooper was a sentimentalist. Lillian said nothing foolish. She said nothing at all. She did nothing foolish. She did nothing at all.

Lillian Gish dragged back home (Broken Blossoms)
Lillian Gish dragged back home (Broken Blossoms)

At an early age, Lillian learned that Art is Imagination. And it happens also that Sex – Appeal is much the same thing. The Griffith connection came to an end and Lillian, for the first time, was forced to face a cold, commercial business. She might have signed up at a fairly large salary to appear in program pictures but she had picked up the idea of her “two dollar public.” Lillian was in no hurry to rush into competition with other stars. She was out to create a safe and distant place of her own.

Lillian Gish Head Picture 1916 Griffith interview

At the time that Lillian “went on her own,” a young, fairly good-looking and ambitious lawyer was entering the film field. He had a lot of money back of him—he was financed by Averill Harriman—and his company had just made a phenomenally successful picture, “Tol’able David.” And he was looking for new stars.

Lillian Gish – Returning from Rome (White Sister) after visiting the HH Pope (International Newsreel)
Lillian Gish – Returning from Rome (White Sister) after visiting the HH Pope (International Newsreel)

Richard Barthelmess suggested Lillian Gish. Of course, Lillian’s drawing power at the box office was doubtful. Nevertheless, she could act and, if properly managed, she could be turned into a winner. Charles Duell listened, met Miss Gish and signed her up. When Duell met Lillian he had been married less than a year—to another Lillian. He was ambitious, financially, socially and politically. He had known Roosevelt and had been active in the Republican party. He was a Yale man and a member of many prominent clubs. Mr. and Mrs. Duell were summering at Newport. They invited their new star to visit them. If Lillian made no great impressions at the Rhode Island Ice Plant, she at least broke on the front page of the newspapers. A movie star at Newport! It sounded nice, anyway.

Lillian Gish and director Henry King - Romola candid on set
Lillian Gish and director Henry King – Romola candid on set

At that time, Inspiration Pictures was making program films with Barthelmess. But no program films for Lillian. Miss Gish was sent to Italy to make “The White Sister” — a costly expedition consuming many months time and nearly all of Mr. Duell’s attention. But it was all in the interest of Art and Art is cruel. Most of the story of Mr. Duell’s various pilgrimages for Art has been told in court. For at the completion of “The White Sister” and “Romola”—both expensive films—Mr. Duell tried to hold Lillian to a contract with him at over $2,000 a week. Meanwhile there was an $8,ooo a week contract for Lillian waiting elsewhere. Mrs. Duell—that is, the other Lillian—was lost in the shuffle. The Duells separated after one of Charles’ trips to Italy. It was hinted in Court that Duell—rightly or wrongly believing himself engaged to marry Lillian—had selfishly built her up as a star, hoping to be her husband. But hopes or no hopes, “The White Sister” and “Romola” did help Lillian, although they did ruin Duell.

Charles H. Duell - Inspiration Pictures Director 2
Charles H. Duell – Inspiration Pictures Director

Not only did Duell lose his suit but he was held for perjury and when the perjury trial came up, the jury disagreed. Lillian was not called as a witness. Listen to what that able lawyer, Nathan Burkan, had to say at the close of the second trial: “Why was not Lillian Gish produced at the start? It is an insult to your intelligence. The only person who could prove the guilt of Duell was Lillian Gish and she was right here in New York City.” Burkan also declared that it was Duell and Duell’s money that made a star of Miss Gish, declaring “all she was getting before she came under Mr. Duell’s management was Si.ooo a week. Remember, if you (the jury) find him guilty, it will not only mean his imprisonment but his disbarment as an attorney and his disgrace.”

George Jean Nathan Chateau Du Plessis France 22
George Jean Nathan and Lillian Gish at Chateau Du Plessis – France 1922

After the unfavorable publicity of the first trial, Lillian needed someone to set her right. She found the man in George Jean Nathan, a brilliant and difficult-to-please critic. Nathan was seen constantly in her company—so constantly that he was rumored as a possible husband. George Jean wrote pretty articles in her honor, acclaiming her as the only great actress on the screen. He had no great amount of money but he had a collection of wonderful adjectives. Lillian got all his best superlatives. Movie audiences always shed a tear for a frail little blonde alone in the world. The “vamps” know men and their ways. They can protect themselves. Barbara La Marr could protect herself so well that she kept a bookful of checks already signed to pass out as “loans” for anyone who could tell a hard luck tale. So let us all shed a tear for the helpless ingenue!

For more details of Duell saga, kindly follow the link below:

LILLIAN GISH SUED BY CHARLES S. DUELL

 

Lillian Gish and The Carrot syndrome 1925
Lillian Gish and The Carrot syndrome 1925

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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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Erte Speaks His Mind (By Annette Buroughs – PHOTOPLAY February, 1926)

PHOTOPLAY February, 1926

Erte Speaks His Mind

And breaks a few cherished illusions

By Annette Buroughs

They seemed made for each other, the movies and Erte. One of Paris’ most original style dictators, creating frocks of startling beauty and luxury, Erte’ listened to the siren song of Hollywood, all agog to clothe gobs of beautiful stars. Thus he came to the City of the Angels and there—but read it yourself

IN the first place, he says our shoulders are like what you hang clothes on! Quite square and unshapely. Our long limbs he admires, for it is easy to swirl a hank of silk around long-legged ladies and make them look like sinuous sirens. But the beauty that is Hollywood’s— the legendary fairness of its damsels—he fails to find. Our film beauties, says he, are no more beautiful than any other women and offer no more inspiration. It has also been whispered that he said they were dumb —but it has not been verified! Romain de Tirtoff-Erte is the name of dreams. And Romain refers to dressing far more spicy than the salad. He is the Erte of Paris. The man who does the impossible with yards of slithering silks and stiff costly satins. Chiffons, too. he drapes on flat-bosomed mannequins—and hefty dowagers buy them. He makes bizarre follies that are copied by the Eollies Bergere. He made the centipede lash famous—the thicket-like lash that surrounds the glittering orbs of fashion magazine ladies.

Lillian Gish Renee Adoree Catherine Vidor Valetina Zimina (La Boheme)
Lillian Gish Renee Adoree Catherine Vidor Valetina Zimina (La Boheme)

Then he came to Hollywood to put Art in motion pictures. But it seems that Art wouldn’t stay in its proper niche and kept popping out for air and going on excursions. Which disgusted him. Too, what could an artist do with a lady—prettily plump — who refused to keep her corsets on while wearing a dress all ruffles and frills? And when young ladies with prominent shoulder blades “angel wings” the kids called them —would insist upon wearing decollete frocks? And whoever heard of a young miss—poor but of impeccable character — wearing finest silk from cuticle out? And the tragedy of designing four separate series of sets and costumes for a motion picture, and then to have the fifth draft of the story place all the action in the prop room!

(LA BOHEME) de King Vidor 1926 USA avec John Gilbert et Lillian Gish retrouvaille, caleche, diligence, cocher, chevaux d'apres le roman de Henri Murger PMRCJN
(LA BOHEME) de King Vidor 1926 USA avec John Gilbert et Lillian Gish d’apres le roman de Henri Murger

It is to weep. Small wonder, then, from the sounds of strife emanating from his studio, that we pictured Erte as a peppery and volcanic French man with a goatee and grasshopper motions, who probably waved tape – line and shears in expostulatory manner. A cartoon Frenchman with comic opera trimmings. Instead, he is a mild-mannered man with smooth cropped black hair and a gently tilted nose faintly reminiscent of a sur prised rabbit. He wears a pearl bracelet about one wrist. His constant companion is a Prince who has the enviable ability of bowing gracefully from the waist. Renee Adoree was the first film miss who was trotted out for comment. Renee is a native of la belle France and Erte has nothing but admiration for her art but that adorable little Melisande of “The Big Parade” received a gentle rap about her rounded curves.

Renee Adoree - La Boheme - Musette
Renee Adoree – La Boheme – Musette

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.)

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

” 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 John Gilbert - La Boheme - Musette and Rodophe
Renee Adoree and John Gilbert – La Boheme – Musette and Rodophe
Lillian Gish as Mimi in La Boheme
Lillian Gish as Mimi in La Boheme

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!”

CONSTANCE BENNETT, the idol of a million flappers as she cavorts upon the screen, is not perfect, either, in Erte’s eyes. Slender Connie needs a milk diet to hide the angles that are so hard to mask when designing gowns for her. Her slim, girlish shoulders were not intended for evening frocks that daringly reveal numerous vertebrae and even Erte couldn’t cover her naughty shoulder bones that provokingly thrust themselves out like twin blades. And, oh dear! Nothing seems quite right with our picture ladies. Aileen Pringle — artists have raved over her—has a beautiful face, but her body is dreadfully hard to clothe in lines of smooth symmetry. However, a dazzling blonde won Erte’s approval, and also a vivid brunette. Claire Windsor and Carmel Myers he mentioned with delight. Carmel, particularly, was a joy to gown, because she knew how to wear her clothes. Her movements are slow and undulating — not short and jerky. She moves with a grace that adds distinction to any frock. No useless motions of the hands—Erte loathes the technique that teaches of fluttering ringers.

Norma Shearer C19
Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer drew a compliment for her sleek coiffure, although it had not been his privilege to create a gown for her. “Miss Shearer should wear her hair drawn smoothly back from her face. It gives her a distinguished air. Fluffy hair is for faces not so beautiful.” Another thing that puzzles Erte, born of France — “Alas, my friends in Paris — they send me clippings of stories that have been published in French journals. One of the stories says, ‘Erte advocates shaving the brows from the face and using patent leather eyebrows!’ Imagine! ” My friends say, ‘ Can this be our Erte? He must have gone quite mad in Hollywood—poor Erte! Or perhaps some impostor has taken his name and fame!’ And at the studio the officials say this is publicity—this eyebrow thing. I have no regard for publicity.”

So Erte has packed his drawing book, pencils, eraser and paints and is hieing himself back to Paris, where Art is Art and the feminine form is divine. He does say one thing for Hollywood, tho—harken ye, Chamber of Commerce!

Erte says: “The climate—I love it’ It is glorious!”

La Boheme full cast and crew
La Boheme full cast and crew

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What Makes Them Cry – By Frederick James Smith (PHOTOPLAY 1923)

PHOTOPLAY Vol. XXIII May, 1923 No.6

What Makes Them Cry

By Frederick James Smith

What Moves the Stars to Tears

  • Mary Pickford by Massenet Elegie
  • Pola Negri by Grieg’s Lament
  • Bill Hart by “Sweet Bunch of Daisies”
  • Theda Bara by Gabriel-Marie’s “La Cinquantaine”
  • Betty Compson by “Aloha”
  • Dorothy Dalton by “Kiss Me Again”
  • Mae Busch by “Home Sweet Home”
Judith from Bethulia 7
Judith from Bethulia

SINCE Blanche Sweet wept the first sensational real screen tear, as Judith in David Wark  Grifiith’s “Judith of Bethulia,” many a tear has been shed before the remorseless film lens. Unfortunately the public has come to look upon most of them as a matter of glycerine. That is a part of the film fan’s general present suspicion of all things cinematic. In reality, most of the studio tears these days are real. It is no longer a matter of emulsion rather than emotion. After all, why shouldn’t the tears be the genuine thing? The average star has only to think of what the papers say about that last picture, or the sad fashion the studio staff receives his—or her—flashes of genius. Any one of these things is guaranteed to open the ocular sluice-gates.

Lillian Gish - Broken Blossoms
Lillian Gish – Broken Blossoms

Seriously, tears are largely a matter of temperament. They come comparatively easy to stars like Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish. Just a suggestion can make Jackie Coogan weep giant tears. Pola Negri, on the other hand, approaches her tear duct interludes from an emotional angle, rather than from the path of pathos. She must come to the tears logically as the climax of carefully developed emotional scenes. And she must have music. Indeed, it is surprising, when you come to consider the sob moments, how important a part music plays in the “shooting” of our photoplays. It is impossible to say definitely just when and where music entered the silver-sheet field as a tear persuader, but legend has it that Grifiith called in a violinist at the old Biograph studio, away back in 1909, to play for Florence Lawrence. Maybe the honor is deserved elsewhere but, since “D. W.” created most of the innovations which in time became part of the technique of the photoplay of today, we pass the wreath to Griffith and move on. True, Griffith uses music less than any director we know.

Intolerance
Intolerance

He has found that mobs in big scenes are especially responsive to music and, in “Intolerance,” he used a military band for three days during the filming of the battle scenes. Archaeologists would have been surprised to see the legions of Cyrus repulsed from the walls of Babylon to the stirring strains of a Sousa march or “Tipperary.” In the scenes of Belshazzar’s feast in “Intolerance” the dancers received their cues from music of this same hardworking band. In the intimate scenes of his productions, however, Griffith uses no music. Indeed, Griffith has told me that he would never employ a player who could not feel a role enough to weep at rehearsals. Right here let us say that Griffith himself will not do a story that does not move him to the point of tears at the mere telling. More than once we have watched tears come to Griffith’s eyes as he merely outlined the details of a screen story. This reveals something of the Griffith method of making a photoplay. He will work over his story until he achieves at least one or two big moments. Then he will turn and twist the synopsis—indeed, throw the story out the window—to get the most out of these few seconds. These moments develop at the extended rehearsals of the entire story which always precede the “shooting” of a single foot of film. Usually they come forth as a player reveals an unusual touch of feeling. Think back over any Griffith drama and you will instantly recall certain moments that stand out with cameo clarity.

Consider the slavey’s hysterical fear in the tiny closet of “Broken Blossoms,” the broken Yellow – Man hovering tenderly over the figure of the girl in the same classic, the death of the baby in ” ‘Way Down East,” or the moment when Henriette hears the distant voice of the lost and blind Louise in “Orphans of the Storm.” All immortal celluloid flashes of genius—and all achieved in this careful fashion.

Orphans of the Storm
Orphans of the Storm – Jacques Forget Not and Henriette

The Griffith method of developing these scenes is essentially unique. It can honestly be described as savoring of hypnotism. Griffith has a voice of odd dramatic timbre. On the stage it may sound forced and theatrical but in the studio it becomes a musical instrument to play upon an actor’s emotions. The very qualities that made Griffith an indifferent actor seem to make for directorial greatness.

Griffith approaches a big scene carefully. Mellowing preliminary—or “working up”—scenes are shot for days preceding. Then the day comes. Someone has said that a cathedral hush settles upon the studio. Griffith goes to his room and rests for an hour. The player goes to his or her dressing room and rests. Then the moment arrives. Stage carpenters’ hammers are stilled. Griffith begins to talk to the player. He gives emotionally in direct ratio to the actor’s response. Lillian Gish could reach an emotional climax easily. When the “Broken Blossoms” scene in the closet — still the screen’s highest example of emotional hysteria—was shot in Los Angeles the screams of Miss Gish, alternating with the cries of Griffith, could be heard in the streets outside. It required most of the studio staff to keep the curious from trying to invade the studio.

Grifiilh’s directing becomes a veritable duel of emotions. Mae Marsh was—and is—almost as responsive as Lillian Gish under his direction. Carol Dempster is not of the same temperament. Griffith once worked steadily from eleven to five o’clock, during the making of “The Girl Who Stayed at Home,” before he evoked a single responsive tear from Miss Dempster. But, since he refuses to resort to glycerine, he kept on. These scenes are highly wearing for the actor, naturally. Yet we never saw a player respond to emotions so easily and recover herself so quickly as Lillian Gish. She has a curious knack of resting—of completely relaxing—in every spare moment. She conserves herself with the greatest care. Miss Gish once told me that she long ago learned that she could do anything if she rested properly. “Resting properly,” she went on, ‘”is relaxing every muscle.” Try it sometime. A curious instance of Griffith’s studio magnetism is told of the filming of the old fashioned revival scenes in “True Heart Susie.” The director had secured an evangelist for the scene, but somehow the crowd of extras remained cold and unmoved. The scene threatened to collapse when Griffith took the revivalist’s place on the platform—and began to really preach. He kept his place on the platform for six hours—and obtained the most remarkable shots of a revival under stress of religious fervor ever filmed. They say one could hear the extras singing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” two blocks from the California studio. Indeed, a half dozen ten-dollar-a-day extras hit the sawdust trail in reality.

Mary Pickford throws herself wholehearted into a scene. “Glycerine tears and counterfeit money are in the same class;” Miss Pickford has told me. “If I can riot feel enough to weep real tears I believe I am not honest with the public.” Which, somehow, sums up the reason for Miss Pickford’s continuous leadership of the screen for so many years. She is true to her audience. Miss Pickford frequently uses music to stir her emotions. It may interest you to know that the Cadman Indian lyric, “From the Land of the Sky Blue Water,” is one of the numbers she frequently uses. And Massenet’s Elegie. She utilized the Elegie when she created that famous scene before the mirror in “Stella Maris,” when poor little Unity realized her own ugliness. On the other hand no music was required for that tender moment in the revival of “Tess of the Storm Country,” where the little waif stands before the judge. Miss Pickford says that it was the moving voice of Forrest Robinson, the old player who acted the judge, that stirred her to tears. John S. Robertson, the director, tells many stories of Miss Pickford’s quick response to sentiment. He relates an interesting story, too, of the way he achieved some of the touching moments of “Sentimental Tommy.” Remember the brief—but telling—second where May McAvoy as Grizel fought off a show of emotion although her eyes were welled with tears. Robertson achieved it with a trick. “It wasn’t honest and it wasn’t fair,” says Robertson, rather shamefacedly. “We tried the scene for some time with little success. Then the lunch hour came. When the players returned, Miss McAvoy was four minutes late. I surprised her by turning pretty harshly and demanding to know what she meant by being late. Miss McAvoy is a sensitive little person and I saw her fighting back her emotions. So we went on with the scene—and I had just what I wanted. I saw Miss McAvoy creep behind some scenery afterward to cry and I felt like a rotter. Later on, however, I told her and asked her forgiveness.” During the recent shooting of “The Bright Shawl,” the romantic story of Havana in which Richard Barthelmess starred, Robertson utilized three orchestras. One, a Spanish string orchestra, was used for the dance moments, a native negro orchestra for the Cuban dance hall scenes and a theater orchestra for the theater shots. Once or twice the Spanish orchestra was called upon lor certain emotional moments. Yet neither Barthelmess nor Robertson believe much in the use of music. The temperamental Pola Negri has a very discriminating taste in music. She uses a piano and cello and calls upon her two musicians for Tschaikowsky, Beethoven and sometimes, Wagner. Rachmaninoff’s famous prelude is one of her favorites. In achieving the highly tempestuous emotional scene of “Bella Donna,” she used the restless and moving lament of Grieg.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan
Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan

While Chaplin uses no music in the actual making of scenes, he often slips away to a deserted comer of his studio. There he plays upon an old violin, while he works out the details of a scene. Never does he approach one of those superb scenes—where comedy is shot through with pathos—without resorting to his faithful violin. No glycerine tears for Jackie Coogan! His childish imagination needs only to be touched. We have seen him weep copiously during a mere recitation. There was a tearful scene in “Oliver Twist,” if you remember. The director merely called Jackie’s attention to a little kitten that had wandered on the set. It was a scraggly little feline waif. “That kitten’s hungry, Jackie,” said the director. “Poor little thing.” In an instant, tears were streaming down Jackie’s cheeks. They tell an interesting story in Hollywood of the night Jackie attended one of the American Legion fights given for charity. Little Jackie got into the ring and shook hands with the pugilists and, as the crowd cheered enthusiastically, his father stepped into the squared circle. Papa Coogan asked Jackie to do a little scene. “You’re just a poor little boy, Jackie,” said his father kneeling beside him on the canvas, while the great arena hushed under the glaring lights. “You’re earning a httle money selling papers but you’re tired and cold. When you come back to your little home, you find your baby sister is very sick. When you count your pennies, you realize you haven’t enough money to buy the medicine the doctor ordered. You go to her bedside. . . . Now, Jackie, do it.”

Norma Talmadge
Norma Talmadge

Without music, atmosphere or props, Jackie walked to the side of the imaginary cradle and, after trying to smile and count his fancied pennies, burst into a flood of real tears, burying his shaking head in his arms. Yes, the audience cried, too. Norma Talmadge uses music on her sets during emotional scenes but she says she does it as a screen from the studio atmosphere. Music blots out distracting things, she says. Miss Talmadge, too, insists upon absolute quiet. Tears come to her gradually, only after she has concentrated completely upon her role. Do you remember the scene in “The Miracle Man” where Thomas Meighan came to realize that he had bartered everything worth while for a handful of gold and breaks down in tears? Meighan always was a competent actor but he hadn’t cried. Somehow it seemed unmanly to him and he simply couldn’t. At least, so runs the story as George Loane Tucker once told it. For two days and two nights. Tucker kept Meighan practically without sleep and food by rushing work at the studio. By that tune Meighan’s nerves had been worn to an edge. So the two, the director and the future star, went on a long walk. Tucker talked long and earnestly of the scene. When they returned to the studio, Meighan had hardly faced the camera when he broke down and wept. The result was the scene as you saw it on the screen. Alice Terry’s tears, obtained under the direction of her husband. Rex Ingram, are earned in strenuous fashion. Miss Terry is very slow to arrive at the lachrymal moment. Some times it takes a day or two of continuous work, pressure and almost friction, before the tear comes. Larry Trimble tells an interesting story of the way he obtained tears from Rubye de Remer during the filming of “The Auction Block.” Like Miss Terry, Miss de Remer responds slowly. But Trimble resolved not to use the glycerine bottle. He told the wardrobe woman to give Rubye a pair of shoes one size too small. The desired scene was to show a young wife, heart broken by her husband’s actions, sitting on the edge of her bed in tears, sobbing, “I can’t stand any more.” Mr. Trimble kept Miss de Remer standing for hours. He had sandwiches sent in for lunch—and kept her standing to eat them. This continued all day, although Miss de Remer never realized the plot. Work continued into the night. Finally 11 o’clock came. Miss de Remer was on the edge of breaking. Her feet aching and her nerves worn out, the actress collapsed on the edge of the bed, wailing, “I can’t stand any more.” The cameraman caught the scene and Trimble explained his ruse. But they had to cut off Miss de Remer’s shoes. However, the scene established her as an actress. The use of music in the western studios was introduced at Lasky’s by Geraldine Farrar. The music of Bizet’s “Carmen” was played during the filming of that opera. When Miss Farrar did “Joan the Woman,” the Marseillaise was used as the theme of the filming music, just as it was later utilized in the incidental music written to accompany the production. For her love scenes, notably the one with Wallie Reid in this production, Miss Farrar always called for Charles Gardner’s “The Lilac.” Old fashioned tunes were popular with Bill Hart in emotional scenes, particularly an old timer called “Sweet Bunch of Daisies.” Theda Bara used to always insist upon a harpist during her tense scenes. During the shooting of “Cleopatra” and “Du Barry,” the harpist always used the same theme, which was described by the studio forces as ” an Egyptian chant dug up in an orient tomb along the Nile.” A musician happened to visit the studio one day, however, and identified the haunting melody as Gabriel-Marie’s “La Cinquantaine,” otherwise “The Golden Wedding.” Imagine Cleopatra using her wiles on poor old Marc to the tune of a golden wedding melody!  Miss Bara was highly partial to Verdi, too, and also to Massenet’s Elegie Among the directors who always employ an orchestra is Marshall Neilan. Micky has a four piece orchestra on his pay roll all the time. Here it is interesting to note that Micky is an excellent musician, although he never took a lesson. When Neilan was in New York recently, he met Irving Berlin at a party. Micky sat down to a piano and played Berlin’s “Say It With Music.” “Remarkable,” exclaimed the king of popular music. “You have the real feeling of jazz—that’s the number as I really fancied it.” On the other hand, Rupert Hughes, although he likes to play between scenes, banishes all musicians during actual shooting.

Theda Bara
Theda Bara

It is possible to go on endlessly enumerating melodies that stir certain stars to tears. Betty Compson, for instance, can sob graphically for the camera if she hears “Aloha.” Dorothy Dalton, for instance, needs “Kiss Me Again.” Mae Busch wants “Home, Sweet Home.” And so it goes. Anyway, the reign of the glycerine bottle is ended. The motion picture camera is relentless in disclosing the real along with the artificial.

Lillian Gish fainted in Cheng Huan's shop close up (Broken Blossoms)
Lillian Gish fainted in Cheng Huan’s shop close up (Broken Blossoms)

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