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This is a flawed attempt to film an otherwise worthwhile story. The
narrative of "The Violin Maker of Cremona" is nothing weighty or complex,
but it has enough substance to work as a short story, and it could have made
a pretty good one-reeler. In this movie, though, things just don't work
very well. It misses a lot of the potential in the story, and it does not
really stand out in any cinematic way, either.
The story begins with two apprentice violin makers who are in love with the same young woman, and who both hope to win the same violin-making contest. As things develop from this starting point, the basic story-line is clear, but much of the action is inadequately explained and/or unclear. The physical effects of the film's age don't help in this respect, but that does not explain away all of the flaws. Moreover, there was a lot of potential for drama and emotion that is never developed or used. Thus, the small amount of dramatic tension that it generates soon fizzles out.
Just a little bit of imagination could have given this film a lot more impact. Given the director, it is surprising how little skill there is in this feature. Probably the only thing really notable about it is the chance to see a young Mary Pickford in one of her early roles.
Crippled violinist David Miles (as Filippo) is very much taken with
lovely young Mary Pickford (as Giannina Ferrari); when she tosses him a
flower, he lovingly places it in a special vase. Ms. Pickford is rather
free with her flowers, however, and also has one for Mr. Miles' dashing
friend Owen Moore (as Sandro); for Mr. Moore, Pickford includes an
amorous "come hither" look. The residents of Cremona are apparently
violin enthusiasts; Miles and Moore enter a contest to see which man
can make the best violin in town. The prizes are a gold chain and
Pickford's hand in marriage, allowed by her father Herbert Prior (as
Taddeo Ferrari)! Who will the winner be?
Interesting as an early co-starring role for Pickford; with a few exceptions, she is not as impressive in her early film roles as might be expected after viewing her later, sometimes exceptional, performances. Pickford's best moment is her repulsion when she realizes the "lame" Miles will enter the contest to win her hand in marriage, obviously because he is disabled! Miles is the real star of this D.W. Griffith film; given the best role, he gives the most interesting performance. A hundred years later, you can finally call "The Violin Maker of Cremona" lame.
*** The Violin Maker of Cremona (6/7/09) D.W. Griffith ~ David Miles, Mary Pickford, Owen Moore
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Newcomer to the Biograph studios, Mary Pickford plays quite a flirtatious young girl in The Violin Maker of Cremona. This film is one of her first and already Pickford's natural way of acting is very evident in her performance. She plays Giannina who has two admirers who work at her father's shop making violins. One is a cripple Filippo ( David Miles ) and Giannina playfully tosses a flower through his window as he is getting dressed, however he mistakes her flower as a gesture of love. At the violin shop, he watches Giannina flirting with Sandro ( Owen Moore ) the fellow she really loves, now Filippo sadly realizes he may have no chance with the pretty maiden. A contest is being held for the best violin maker, with one of the prizes being Giannina's hand in marriage. I do not want to give a full synopsis, for the rest of the film the viewer can watch the techniques used by D.W Griiffith with his actors to bring this story to it's melodramatic ending. I will comment that Mary Pickford and David Miles are the standout performers to study and this early Biograph silent is interesting to watch.
In this story, two men, one of them crippled, are violin makers. They are part of a yearly contest where the person producing the best violin wins a gold chain. In this, there is a kicker. The winner also gets Mary Pickford. There are some changes of violins in an effort to try to derail the contest. The film makes it hard to figure out what is going on because the infirmity is not that obvious. We don't know if there is theft or deceit. It's interesting to look at, however, and certainly ten minutes well spent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this as an 8mm piece distributed by Blackhawk and I enjoyed the short very much. Mary Pickford plays a young woman of a father who will marry her off to whomever makes the best violin. The two men compete for her hand and there is a lot of silliness that occurs between the two of them that would amuse a modern audience. Production wise, it's set at Biograph studios and I can't remember anything memorable about the cinematography so I may need a second viewing and update my review in the future.Many people still think all of her films were of her pretending to be a child. She had a much wider range of roles and this early Biograph is a great example of it.
Violin Maker of Cremona, The (1909)
** (out of 4)
Griffith short about a violin contest where the winner gets to marry a young girl (Mary Pickford). Here's another failed attempt at comedy from the director. I've seen around six or seven of these comedies and he just doesn't seem comfortable.
What Drink Did (1909)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Another Griffith drama showing the abuse of alcohol. A man goes out drinking with his buddies while his family waits for him at home. When he finally goes home he's drunk and abusive but this doesn't stop him from going back to drink. This is a good film but my God did Griffith go way, way, way over the top in trying to get his message across. The over-dramatic situation at the end almost wants to make you laugh. Mary Pickford makes an early (and brief) appearance here.
The 34 year old D.W. Griffith reworks the story set by Francee Cooper. He divides the mainstream from the marginalized in this film, reconstructing America in the process. He paints a picture of characters that his audiences would want to have fellowship with, allowing the mainstream to identify with the Griffithiana community. He is not a deep thinker, but a frustrated writer with an ambition that has yet to be realised. He overpaints this film, reading too much into Cooper's work. He does give it some sort of shape that it didn't possess before, but he does that to shape his perception of American history rather than tell an engaging story.
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