Camera – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23. 1920
”Way Down East”
Griffith comes back again with his screen version of “Way Down East,” and, as usual, the critics have little to report save good regarding one of his big productions. As has been the case in some of his previous pictures, this old melodrama will henceforth be more popular as a Griffith offering than it has proven during the many years that it has been an old standby on the boards.
Never before have such photography and light effects been accomplished for the screen. These, combined with the unusual settings which proclaim aloud their genuineness, render “Way Down East” the season’s most artistic production by far.
The original plot of the play has been elaborated upon and much invaluable human interest business has been inserted. The performances of the cast are very good and the New England types are excellent. Their action is materially assisted by the music score.
Lillian Gish undoubtedly does her best work to date as Anna Moore, the featured load. She combines subtly the simple-hearted childishness for which her characterizations have long been known with the hurt reserve that the spirit bruising knocks of a cruel world accomplish so quickly in dazed youth. There are few light touches in her offering, and it is much more effective so.
Lowell Sherman is exceptionally well cast as the heavy, Lennox Sanderson, whom he interprets cleverly. His work is convincing enough to gather for him the complete loathing of any audience.
Richard Barthelmess does David Bartlett, the well remembered ideal young New Englander, with all of his old time juvenile appeal. His characterization is equally good in its tender and its dominant moments.
Burr Macintosh and Kate Price are beautifully cast as Squire and Mrs. Bartlett. It is the home atmosphere that means so much in Griffith pictures.
Mary Hay makes her screen debut in the role of Kate Brewster, the refreshing little ingenue. She is headed toward Dorothy ‘s port with her eccentric comedy mannerisms. Her relief is timely.
Vivia Ogden, Porter Strong and George Neville occasion the more hilarious amusement of the play in the rural characters, Martha Perkins, Jack Setholand and Reuben Whipple. Josephine Bernard, Mrs. Morgan Belmont and Patricia Fruer are somewhat amateurish as the Tremonts, but their footage is limited and consequently means little.
Florence Short, however, creates a type worthy of mention in her four or five scenes as their eccentric aunt. Edgar Nelson as Hi Holler, and Emily Fitzroy as Maria Poole, complete the cast.
The remarkableness and thrill of the ice jam and break scenes, which forms the climax, has never been rivaled. It is as spectacular a sequence as has been filmed, even by this director.
Other producers might follow Mr. Griffith’s example by including many big brains in their organizations, to the advantage of’ their productions and resultantly their own material success.