“The Greatest Thing in Life” Paramount and Artcraft Press Books – 1919



Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918-Feb 1919)

“The Greatest Thing in Life”


Ranking among the very foremost of American motion picture producers, David Wark Griffith has produced numerous screen classics which stand as exemplars of the best the cinema art has thus far presented to the world. It is perhaps unnecessary to state that Mr. Griffith created those wonder pieces, “The Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance,” “Hearts of the World” and “The Great Love,” all of which are brilliant evidences of his artistry and painstaking attention to detail. There is as much difference between Griffith pictures and the ordinary screen productions, excepting only those of Cecil B. De Mille, Thomas H. Ince and Maurice Tourneur, as there is between the Polar night and the brassy sun of the tropics. The Griffith picture, in point of conception, breadth of idea, splendor of execution, artistic portrayals, massiveness, photography and general excellence is unexcelled. In his new Artcraft picture, “The Greatest Thing in Life,” all the qualities of production which have made Mr. Griffith famous, are richly in evidence. The theme of this superb picture, which deals with love and war, is that patriotism and love of country through which men regain their souls and after many trials, find themselves, constitute the greatest thing in life insofar as the material welfare of humanity is concerned. Mr. Griffith has produced another photoplay in “The Greatest Thing in Life” which will stand indefinitely as a monument to his genius,  craftsmanship and enterprise.

motion picture lobby card for the greatest thing in life cve detail2 (library of congress)


The author of “The Greatest Thing in Life” is Captain Victor Marier, a writer and soldier of reputation and merit. Captain Marier himself has witnessed some of the scenes he has so faithfully incorporated in his realistic story.

Lillian Gish - The Greatest Thing in Life
The Greatest Thing in Life


Edward LIVINGSTON, a rich dilletante, who believes himself to be socially superior to all with whom he comes in contact, is chagrined to discover that he loves Jeanette Peret, the vivacious, beautiful but humble daughter of Leo Peret, keeper of a cigar and newsstand in New York. He rebels against his passion in vain, for he believes that marriage with such a girl must inevitably shatter his dreams of social prestige. He quarrels with her one day and when she drives him off, he sends her father one thousand dollars on learning that his health demands that he return to France. Neither Jeanette nor her father know who sent the money and Livingston does not reveal the secret. Jeanette accompanies her father to France where she dreams of making a noble match. Instead of this, she meets Monsieur le Bebe, a great uncouth green grocer who eats garlic, but who falls violently in love with her and to whom she reads poetry. The war breaks and the village is attacked by the Germans. There is a secret telephone in the cellar of the Peret home and information is regularly sent thereby to the French lines. Meanwhile, Livingston has become an officer in the American fighting forces and he is seeking news of Jeanette. The Germans take the village and trace the telephone to the Peret home. Monsieur le Bebe is wounded and hidden in the cellar by Jeanette. As the Huns are beating down the door of their hiding place, Jeanette telephones their danger to the French lines and Livingston receives the message. He leads a rescuing party and reaches the Peret house just as the Germans batter down the door. The girl and her father are saved, but Monsieur le Bebe dies from his wounds. Livingston, after months in the trenches and bitter privation, has found himself and he and Jeanette plight their troth.

Lillian Gish in The Greatest Thing in Life’ Next Monday Evening
Lillian Gish in The Greatest Thing in Life’ Next Monday Evening

The Players

An excellent cast has been provided for “The Greatest Thing in Life” by Mr. Griffith. The stellar role is in the hands of Lillian Gish, whose artistic work in “The Great Love” will be remembered. Robert Harron plays opposite to her, while other capable players in the cast are Adolphe Lestina, David Butler, Elmo Lincoln, Edward Peil, Kate Bruce and “Peaches” Jackson.


ONE of the ablest cameramen in the country is George W. Bitzer, (** Wilhelm Gottfried “Billy” – Bitzer) who photographed many of Mr. Griffith’s master productions. He is responsible for the splendid photography in “The Greatest Thing in Life,” and his workmanship in this picture doubtless will be recognized as that of a master of his craft.

Billy Bitzer and D.W. Griffith inspect the negative (Los Angeles Herald)
Billy Bitzer and D.W. Griffith inspect the negative (Los Angeles Herald)

David Wark Griffith’s Latest Artcraft Production, “ The Greatest Thing in Life” Teaches Salutary Lessons Story Deals With Love and War and Tells How a nobbish Society Man Found His Soul When He Met and Loved an Humble Though Poetic Girl Edward Livingston, capitalist, clubman, bon vivant and man about town, sadly realizes that when he appears on the streets, there is none in New York worthy to associate with him. What distresses him most is the fact that he is violently in love with Jeanette Peret, a cigar girl from whom for a year or more he has been accustomed to buy his cigars. Finding her engaged with a jaunty customer one day, he becomes jealous and bluntly avows his love for her. Being a man of blunt speech he reminds her injudiciously that she is a simp, fit only to marry a simp and to rear a brood of simpkins. He escapes before the indignant Jeanette can vault over the counter at him. Some days later he hears that Mons. Peret is ailing and in need of funds with which to return to his beloved France. Livingston sends him $1,000 by a messenger with a note that the money was in payment of a good deed done in behalf of the sender. Peret is overjoyed and strangely enough, he recalls the good deed, which however, never existed. So with Jeanette he returns to France unaware of the identity of his benefactor. Peret’s health is somewhat  restored in France, but for a fall sustained when he seeks to embrace Mile. Peaches on a stairway, he might have been restored completely to health. When news of the accident reaches Livingston, he goes to France, seeks Jeanette and apologizes for his rudeness. But Livingston finds his love making is not as smooth as he anticipated. Jeanette is loved by Mons. le Bebe, a grocer, whose greatest vice is the eating of garlic. Jeanette dreams constantly of a wonderful lover and she reads Chanticleer to Mons. le Bebe with great enthusiasm, for therein is a lover after her heart. Being practical minded, Mons. le Bebe fails to go into raptures over a rooster which Jeanette calls a golden sunbird, but which he recognizes as a chicken, he having once kept a flock of them in his back yard. Jeanette makes up her mind that Livingston is not the man she is seeking when she sees him fall into a rage because two children touched his tailored knees with sticky fingers. So she makes up her mind to accept le Bebe on his promise to stop eating garlic, which indeed is a great concession for him to make. War with Germany is declared and le Bebe marches off to the front with Jeanette’s blessing. He is wounded in a skirmish and Jeanette and her father hide him as the Germans enter the village. Livingston meanwhile has donned an officer’s uniform in the struggle against autocracy. Although he despises his fellow soldiers, he is a brave man. But when one of his whiskered fellow soldiers saves his life at the risk of his own, he becomes the soldier’s friend. Manliness comes to him slowly, and he laughs when one of his comrades offers to trade one big cootie for two little ones. Before retreating from the village, the French had placed a telephone in the basement of Peret’s home. Peret telephones news of the Germans to the French with such success that the Huns start forth to discover and destroy the source of information. Mons. Le Bebe is wounded in an engagement and carried to the Peret house where he is covered with sand and thus escapes capture. Jeanette is telephoning when the Germans force their way in as word comes that the Americans are advancing to the rescue. Jeanette’s message is received by Livingston who in return, sends her another frightening message. Le Bebe, though dying, defends Jeanette against the Huns with valor and dies as Livingston and the oncoming Americans enter the village. The Germans are driven away and as her grief over the passing of le Bebe dies away, Jeanette opens a store where doughnuts and home-made pies are sold to the troops. Of course, Livingston is her best customer and in the end all ends happily for Jeanette and her soldier sweetheart.

motion picture lobby card for the greatest thing in life (library of congress)

David W. Griffith’s Splendid New Artcraft Picture “The Greatest Thing in Life,” An Artistic Triumph – Story Dealing With Love and War in This Country and In France Proves Delightful, While the Situations are Dramatic, Thrilling and Appealing.

David W. GRIFFITH, master producer, scored another artistic triumph when his latest Artcraft photoplay of love and war, “The Greatest Thing In Life,” was presented before an enthusiastic audience at the theatre yesterday. The photoplay introduces dainty Lillian Gish, one of the most charming screen players in the country, Robert Harron and other notable players, all of whom appear to excellent advantage in this remarkable production. What is “the greatest thing in life? which may appeal as unusually comprehensive, is suggested by the theme of the play. The greatest thing is somewhat different to nearly every person ; but Mr. Griffith has selected what he believes to be the greatest thing for the majority of persons, as the  foundation for a drama of fascinating variety and arresting strength. Mr. Griffith dips again into the ferment of the Western Front for the climax of his story. Americans are in the majority among the characters in the cast. The romance of the girl is touched with a charm of internationalism, but the pursuing action is staunchly typical of America. The happy blending of delicacy and strength which is conspicuous in Mr. Griffith’s unrivalled mastery in screencraft, has seldom appeared to more forceful advantage than in this superb photoplay. General whimsicalities are offered in contrast to situations of electric suspense and attacking strength. The action mounts with agreeable speed to the intense energy at the close, which is characteristic of all of Mr. Griffith’s productions. The story deals with a young American who is the social harvest of pampering circumstances ; with a blithe and merry maiden who is entertained with dreams; and with a sturdy young Frenchman, a green grocer, loyal to his garlic-fed palate until love complicates his menu and many other things. Mr. Griffith has given his idea in a motion picture that further strengthens his reputation of being one of the master producers of the screen. Its characters are as vivid to the spectator as old friends, definite in their contrasts and tempting in their association. The story moves alertly from the moment the characters are introduced, their foibles outlined with mirthful effect. It presents a penetrating study of humanity, but all analysis is immersed in the pleasant excitement that presides as one scene rises to another in fascination complication. The climax is a tumult of forceful action, weighed with suspense. For each character, Mr. Griffith suggests the greatest thing in life, slightly different, perhaps, but the same in the final estimate. As a   drama, it makes attendance a delight, as a profound study of humanity, its momentous theme will recur to the spectator for many weeks. The picture includes some of the most beautiful photographic scenes Mr. Griffith has ever presented, several of them secured while he was in France. Among them are photographs of the Marne river and Chateau Thierry.

The cast includes the regular Griffith players. Miss Lillian Gish, Robert Harron, Kate Bruce, Adolphe Lestina, and others selected for particular fitness to the parts including David Butler, Elmo Lincoln, Edward Peil, and “Peaches” Jackson. All acquitted themselves creditably.

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918-Feb 1919)

motion picture lobby card for the greatest thing in life cve detail2 (library of congress)

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