THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES (1914 – 1928)

Lillian Gish, D.W. Griffith, R Harron CloseUp 1914 hjk

Photo: LILLIAN GISH (BATTLE OF THE SEXES 1914) with Donald Crisp, Lillian Gish,Robert Harron, scenario D. W. GRIFFITH

THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES – 1914

Opened at Weber’s Theatre, New York, April 12, 1914. Based on The Single Standard by Daniel Carson Goodman. 5 reels. ;

Cast:

  • Donald Crisp as Frank Andrews
  • Lillian Gish as Jane Andrews, the daughter
  • Robert Harron as John Andrews, the son
  • Mary Alden as Mrs. Frank Andrews
  • Owen Moore as Cleo’s lover
  • Fay Tincher as Cleo

W.E. Lawrence made as a “quickie” before Griffith left for California, THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES served the purpose of raising money for the new company. Even the title was good box office. The story was the old one of the straying husband, the home-wrecker and the forgiving wife. Lillian Gish played the part of a daughter who was moved by her mother’s sufferings to the point of committing murder. Griffith re-made the film in 1928. (Iris Barry)

Griffith Directing Battle of the Sexes
Griffith Directing Battle of the Sexes

The Battle of the Sexes was the second D. W. Griffith feature to be released to the public, following Biograph’s long-delayed release of Griffith’s first feature, Judith of Bethulia, by barely more than a month. He had already begun The Escape (1914), but production had been stopped by actress Blanche Sweet’s spell of scarlet fever, and the Reliance-Majestic Studio was already in trouble and in need of a viable Griffith property, fast. Griffith decided on a scenario entitled “The Single Standard,” written by in-house screenwriter Daniel Carson Goodman and filmed at the Reliance studio in New York City, rather than at the Hollywood studio, which was still being built. According to Lillian Gish, The Battle of the Sexes was shot in only five days.

LILLIAN GISH in (BATTLE OF THE SEXES 1914) Donald Crisp Lillian Gish Robert Harron D W GRIFFITH (scenario)
LILLIAN GISH in (BATTLE OF THE SEXES 1914) Donald Crisp Lillian Gish Robert Harron D W GRIFFITH (scenario)

Although the film was complete by February, its release was delayed two months more. Several reasons have been advanced for the impasse, but scholar Paul Spehr has suggested that both Reliance-Majestic and its distributor, Mutual, were having difficulty developing an effective distribution strategy for longer, multi-reel films in a market still dominated by one and two-reel subjects. The Battle of the Sexes was premiered at Weber’s Theater in New York City on April 12, 1914, and was a considerable success; the first one Griffith enjoyed with his name over the title.

Lillian Gish and Donald Crisp in The Battle of the Sexes (1914)
Lillian Gish and Donald Crisp in The Battle of the Sexes (1914)

Majestic Motion Picture Company production; distributed by Continental Feature Film Corporation (Mutual Film Corporation). / Scenario by D.W. Griffith, from the novel The Single Standard by Daniel Carson Goodman. Cinematography by G.W. Bitzer. Camera assistant, Karl Brown. Edited by James Smith and Rose Smith. / Premiered 12 April 1914 at Weber’s Theatre in New York, New York. Released 12 April 1914. / Standard 35mm spherical 1.33:1 format. / Working title: The Single Standard. The film was reportedly shot in four days. Rudolph Valentino is thought to have been an extra in this film. The novel was subsequently filmed as The Battle of the Sexes.

Lillian Gish Battle of The Sexes
Lillian Gish Battle of The Sexes

Synopsis (Moving Picture World)

Frank Andrews is a successful businessman. He has always found pride and joy in the company of his wife, son and daughter. He suddenly finds himself enthralled by the advances of a gay young woman siren, who lives in the same apartment house as he does. So marked an influence does she have over him as time progresses that at last he quite forgets his home ties, neglects his family, and goes the way of many other men who have forgotten the meaning of paternity and blood ties. The story is advanced through many scenes enacted with the accompanying notes of New York’s night life, and the denouement comes when the faithful wife discovers her husband’s infidelity. At this time the mother’s mind nearly loses balance, while Jane, the beautiful daughter, crazed by the grief of her mother, determines to take part in the tragedy. With revolver in hand she steals up to the apartment of the woman, but her frail nature is overcome by the temperamental anger of the woman and her mission fails. However, the errand is not fraught with failure for the father, coming in at this moment, finds his daughter being made love to by the sweetheart of the young woman, and realizes the road upon which he has traveled. When he confronts his daughter and says, “You, my daughter, what are you doing here?” The daughter answers, “My father, what are you doing here?” The realization is brought home to the father’s mind that the law of moral ethics that governs a woman’s life necessarily governs that of wan as well. Reformation comes in his character. He takes his daughter away with him and together they go back to their home of happiness and content. (Moving Picture World)

D.W. Griffith - late 1930's
D.W. Griffith – late 1930’s

The Battle of the Sexes – 1928

Opened at United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, in September 1928; opened at the Rialto, New York, October 12, 1928. 10 reels. Directed by D. W. Griffith; scenario by Gerrit Lloyd, based on the novel by Daniel Carson Goodman, The Single Standard; photographed by G. W. Bitzer and Karl Struss; synchronized music by R. Schildkret. Cast: Judson ]ean Hersholt Marie Skinner Phyllis Haver Mrs. Judson Belle Bennett “Babe” Winsor Don Alvarado Ruth Judson Sally O’Neil Billy Judson William Bakewell Friend of Judsons’ John Batten

Phyllis Haver and Jean Hersholt in The Battle of the Sexes (1928)
Phyllis Haver and Jean Hersholt in The Battle of the Sexes (1928)

Frankly searching for money-making schemes, Griffith decided to remake his 1913 success the battle of the SEXES. Phyllis Haver was chosen to play the gold digger and Jean Hersholt to be the middle-aged lothario, and Griffith tried to bring the old melodrama up to date by adding touches of comedy to the two characters. (Hersholt’s part came midway in his transformation from the villain—as which he had long been typecast—to the kindly old doctor roles for which he became famous.) Contemporary reviewers had been kind on the whole to DRUMS OF LOVE; for THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES Griffith received the worst of all his reviews. Most critics agreed he would have done better to reissue the original. They deplored the cheap sensationalism and the slow pace of the new version, but at least one of them found amusing the barber shop sequence in which Phyllis Haver first sees Hersholt as a man who might be worth mining.

D.W. Griffith, G.W. Bitzer, Don Alvarado, Phyllis Haver, Jean Hersholt, and Karl Struss in The Battle of the Sexes (1928)
D.W. Griffith, G.W. Bitzer, Don Alvarado, Phyllis Haver, Jean Hersholt, and Karl Struss in The Battle of the Sexes (1928)

A synchronous music track with sound effects and a theme song sung by Phyllis Haver were added to this essentially silent film, and it is as a silent film that it survives today. It was typical of this period of Griffith’s career that he had little to do with the synchronized score, and that when he heard it he didn’t like it. Still floundering, ill at ease in the new Hollywood, his attitude was frequently negative. As at Paramount, he was subject to the advice of too many superiors at Art Cinema Corporation, and he no longer had the strength to fight for his own ideas. People who knew him at the time say that he had begun to drink heavily. (Iris Barry)

The Battle of the Sexes 1914 Lillian Gish
The Battle of the Sexes 1914 Lillian Gish
1928 The Battle of the Sexes lobby card
1928 – The Battle of the Sexes (lobby card)

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