Photo-Play Journal – July 1919
“TRUE HEART SUSIE,” one of David W. Griffiths’ latest Artcraft pictures, will not injure this master wizard’s reputation any, for he has not failed to place the very visible earmarks of his directorial skill upon this production. It is a beautiful pastoral romance exerting an intense heart appeal, which is heightened in the manner of treatment and the careful attention to little details which always count so prodigiously in the aggregate. Lillian Gish, in the title role, takes one more long step towards proving that she is one of the greatest artists ever developed under the Griffiths banner, while Robert Harron again distinguishes himself in his support of her. The story unfolded in this excellent photoplay is well worth telling in some detail, and it follows:
Susie May Trueheart, a delightfully awkward, straight forward, true-hearted girl of Hoosier county, loves, with steadfast loyalty, William Jenkins, her boy neighbor across the way. At the little country school house she watches, adoringly, his every move, and suffers untold agonies when, because she is a better speller, she has to go above him. A small, live politician, looking after his fences as he passes through the town, calls William a bright lad, and half promises—in his desire to impress the simple country folk—to give the boy a start in life. Through the months that follow, William and Susie await the fulfillment of the promise that was not made to be kept, looking for the letter that never comes. At last Susie decides for herself that William must not be disappointed ; she determines that the man she is to marry must be educated; William is the man she is going to marry ; she herself will send him to school. She confides her plans to the spinster aunt with whom she lives. Auntie is quite unenthusiastic.
But since the farm and everything on it was left to Susie by her mother, the girl has her way. The accumulated butter and egg money, the small amounts saved for luxuries, finally the cow, go to swell the fund that is to give William his start. Of all these sacrifices, William knows nothing. When at last a letter arrives with money orders and a receipt from the nearby country college for a year’s tuition, he takes it for granted — through his transports of delight—that the gift is from the self-styled philanthropist of the year before.
William goes through college. He is ordained a minister. Through the years Susie waits for him, whole-heartedly, treasuring each of the few letters that he sends her, and finding crumbs of comfort in such non-committal phrases as : “So far, I haven’t met anybody I like better than the people at home.” It is after William’s return home that Susie’s life tragedy occurs. The young man, self consciously important as the newly appointed minister of the home church, falls head-over heels in love with Bettina Hopkins, a lightheaded little butterfly from the next town, and marries her. Hiding her heavy heart beneath a smile of sacrifice that illumines her serious little face, Susie carries flowers at the simple country wedding.
Following the marriage, matters at the parsonage do not progress smoothly. William finds that the girl of his dreams is a different being in real life. Curl papers take the place of curls, and interest in stories drives out interest in preparing meals. Vaguely, William realizes that he has made a mistake—that in Susie, and not Bettina, he might have found his true mate. But it is too late now. Sadly, when he finds Susie looking at some letters in a hidden nook, he asks her if she is thinking of getting married, and advises her to be sure and find the right man. He fails utterly to sense that the letters Susie is reading, are his own—letters from the only man she can ever love. Bettina sees occasionally, members of the little fast set of the near-by town, whom she knew before her marriage. She dances with a former beau, Sporty Malone, and receives his kisses. But when William returns unexpectedly, convinces him that he was entirely mistaken in what he thought he saw. Later, Bettina attends a dance with Sporty and is caught in the rain on the way home, only to find—drenched and shivering—that she has lost her key and cannot get back into the house unobserved. In desperation she goes to Susie and is taken in for the night.
Susie, torturing her own heart, keeps Bettina’s secret—and again William is deceived. But the cold proves serious. It settles in the girl-wife’s lungs, and dances poor Bettina down into the Shadowy Halls of death. With her last words she tries to confess to William, but is unable, even then, to tell him the truth, dying as she had lived, a little unfaithful. After she has passed away, William begins the mistaken task of enshrining her in his memory—to the exclusion of any other love. Then, in time, he learns the truth that Bettina was—what she was ; that Susie is—what she has always remained.
So Susie at last comes into her own.