Sunday, September 20, 2009
08. Way Down East (1920)
Running Time: 123 minutes
Directed By: D.W. Griffith
Written By: Anthony Paul Kelly, Joseph R. Grismer, D.W. Griffith, from the play Way Down East by Joseph R. Grismer, William A. Brady and the play Annie Laurie by Lottie Blair Parker
Main Cast: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Lowell Sherman, Burr McIntosh, Kate Bruce
THE TWENTIES HAVE ARRIVED
Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess team up again, along with D.W. Griffith to bring us this better than average simple story of plain people.
Anna Moore (Gish) leaves her mother in New England to go and live with her more wealthy relatives. Eventhough they don't care for her, they let her stay with them for a short while, or at least until she meets and falls in love with the even wealthier Sanderson (Sherman). Sanderson, a ladies man that will go with any girl who will have him, sees Anna as a beauty and must have her. So he arranges a fake marriage and leads her to believe that they are wed. Anna then becomes pregnant and when Sanderson finds this out, he tells her that they were never actually married by a real priest and takes the first train to Splitsville.
While staying at a boarding house, Anna's baby is born and eventually dies and Anna is thrown out of the joint for not being married, as we're talking 1920's folks when baby and marriage went hand in hand. So she leaves and with nowhere to go, stumbles on to the Bartlett Farm. Squire Bartlett, the patriarch of the Bartlett family, a good, bible thumping man invites her to stay and help out around the house, after some convincing from his wife, Mother Bartlett. After staying there a while and becoming very close with the Bartlett's, especially their son David, who is falling madly in love with Anna, she finds out that Sanderson lives not too far away and is very much acquainted with the Bartlett's.
In private, he insists that she leave, as he cannot have her living so close to his home, even threatening to expose her baby secret to the upstanding Squire Bartlett. Eventually it all comes to a head, truths are outed, loves are proclaimed and the movie climaxes on a frozen river that is quickly thawing, a very grand sequence, considering the time period.
While Way Down East didn't get to me as much as Broken Blossoms did, I still found it quite enjoyable. If I had to pick one thing that was better about this film, than Blossoms, I would have to say that the characters are more fleshed out in Way Down East. There are several characters who you just wanna grab by the neck and choke for their actions, while on the other hand their are characters that you cannot help but sympathize with.
RATING: 6.5/10 Well Griffith's two for four and has one last opportunity to leave a good impression on me, with Orphans of the Storm, which is coming up shortly in the book. Certainly cannot go the full monty on this one, but it definitely blows Intolerance and The Birth of A Nation away on the enjoyment scale.
NEXT UP: Within Our Gates...to date I cannot find this one...but I'm still trying
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