Monday – The Rock Island Argus – May 15, 1922
Tears and Cheers for Two Orphans at the Armstrong
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.