Wid’s Daily – Thursday, June 5, 1919
Story is Slight But Characterization Is True in Griffith Picture
- D. W. Griffith Presents “True Heart Susie” – Artcraft
- DIRECTOR D. W. Griffith
- AUTHOR Marion Fremont
- CAMERAMAN G. W. Bitzer
- AS A WHOLE Very slight plot forces the picture to depend almost entirely on characterization for interest and appeal.
- STORY True in its treatment of the marriage theme; the climax bringing the death of the pleasure-loving wife seems forced.
- DIRECTION Marked by the finely sympathetic touches to be expected in a Griffith production.
- PHOTOGRAPHY Excellent; some of the pastoral scenes are works of art.
- LIGHTINGS Soft and natural
- CAMERA WORK Up to Bitzer’s standard which is high, but once in a while there is a tendency to overdo the “soft focus” effect.
- PLAYERS Lillian Gish gives touchingly expressive portrayal of the simple hearted country girl; Robert Harron scores as the minister; others are of secondary importance.
- EXTERIORS Country locations that could not well be excelled.
- INTERIORS In keeping with the story
- DETAIL Always accurate in the costuming of village characters and in giving the situations the appearance of lifelikeness.
- CHARACTER OF STORY Heart interest drama dealing with rural types; occasional interludes of natural comedy.
- LENGTH OF PRODUCTION 6,213 feet
FUNDAMENTALLY, Marion Fremont’s story of “True Heart Susie” is excellent, because it is true and sincere and pertinent to modern life and character. That a small Indiana town happens to have been chosen as the locale and that the people portrayed are products of their environment does not necessarily localize the theme. In the city or the country the same thing is constantly happening—a man marries the wrong girl, while the right girl waits patiently with tears in her eyes and a breaking heart. The trouble here is that there is not enough plot substance to balance properly a production of this length. At times the picture drags, not through any deficiencies on the part of the players, or any shortcomings in the direction, rather owing to a lack of variety in the action. The thinness of the plot makes necessary the too frequent repetition of scenes that in their meaning and expression of emotion are virtually the same. In more abbreviated form, “True Heart Susie” might easily have become a masterpiece of screen character action. At present it suggests an ideal short story expanded to novel length. it is doubtful if there has been any photoplay giving a deeper and kindlier insight into the heart of a simple country girl, and most assuredly Lillian Gish presents the character of Susie with great appeal. Her philosophy of life is so simple and beautiful. She loves, and to her love means sacrifice and an abiding faith in the ultimate goodness of things.
Any of you who have seen Miss Gish in a role of this sort know how perfectly she imparts life and feeling to a screen figure, and then there is Bobby Harron, who with manlike egotism and self centered obtuseness accepts the devotion of the little girl who loves him. Also, with manlike folly, he is fascinated by the first silk-stockinged flirt that rolls her eyes at him. He actually fancies that she will make a satisfactory wife.
Even in their schooldays, when Bobby and Lillian were sweethearts, the girl was ready to help. At the outset there is a delightfully acted scene when the girl passes her classmate in a spelling match and then tries to make amends because Bobby’s pride is hurt. And how happy she is when they carve their initials side by side in the bark of a tree.
The boy’s ambition is to go to college, but his father is unable to send him. Keeping the sacrifice a secret and making it appear that the money has come from another source, Lillian accumulates the tuition fee, even at the sacrifice of the family cow. Bobby returns with a cute little mustache and an education. He becomes pastor of the village church and Lillian writes in her diary about their approaching marriage.
Clarine Seymour is the flashily dressed, painted and powdered young milliner who spoils her dream, although Bobby has assured her that men marry the simple kind. As a wife, Clarine is “just a trifle unfaithful” and anything but domestic. After a period of unhappiness, the flighty little fun-loving creature dies from a cold caught on one of her surreptitious escapades and the way is cleared for the union of the childhood sweethearts.
The conclusion is permissible from an audience viewpoint, granting the desirability of a happy ending, but artistically it does not ring quite true. The cast includes Loyola O’Connor, Walter Higby, Kate Bruce and Raymond Cannon.
Name of Producer Is Enough to Assure Patronage
Box Office Analysis for the Exhibitor
As already mentioned, “True Heart Susie” is prolonged beyond the needs of the story material and may be criticised on that score, but that does not mean that the picture is seriously jeopardized as a box office success. Its commendable features, in the human treatment of an interesting theme and in the really fine characterization, are compensation enough. Nobody is going to leave your theater without feeling that the time has been well spent. Effective exploitation in a case of this kind is comparatively simple. In many neighborhoods it is not necessary to do much more than announce a new production by D. W. Griffith to assure patronage. This never was truer than at the present time when the fame of the director’s recent masterpiece, “Broken Blossoms” is being heralded throughout the country. Use the name of Griffith in front of your theater and give it big type in all of your printed publicity. Then make as much as you can of the fact that both Lillian Gish and Robert Harron are in the cast. In this instance they are not billed as stars, but each has come to mean more to the public than many players who are boosted as a picture’s chief asset. If you played “A Romance of Happy Valley” you may judge pretty accurately the tone of this production and the style of characterization offered by the leading players.
Catchlines: “Does it pay for a girl to be simple and true? The little country maid in ‘True Heart Susie’ thought so—but—see D. W. Griffith’s appealing story of a plain girl.” Another one: “What wins a husband and what holds him? See how these questions are answered in D. W. Griffith’s ‘True Heart Susie’.”