During the Civil War a young soldier loses his nerve in battle and runs away to his home to hide; his sister puts on his uniform, takes her brother's place in the battle, and is killed. ... See full summary »
During the Civil War a young soldier loses his nerve in battle and runs away to his home to hide; his sister puts on his uniform, takes her brother's place in the battle, and is killed. Their mother, not wanting the shameful truth to become known, closes all the shutters (hence the film's title) and keeps her son's presence a secret for many years, though two boyhood chums stumble upon the truth... Written by
Peter W. Many, Jr. (PMSusana)
This is another of DW Griffith's numerous civil war pictures, made not long after the well-crafted In the Border States. A kind of repetitive formula is starting to develop for these particular shorts, which all begin with a man bidding his family goodbye, then going to join the lines of marching men amid cheering, waving and weeping. As with In the Border States the storytelling is direct and economic, and title cards are not needed. In this case, the scene is set in the opening shot with Dorothy West sewing together a Confederate flag, while Henry B. Walthall proudly stands by her. In an instant we get the era, the setting and the family relationship.
One difference between The House with Closed Shutters and the majority of Griffith's civil war shorts, is that it actually shows large scale albeit brief battle sequences. The shots of the trenches and Dorothy West being gunned down with the flag in her hands are similar to the imagery from the battle in Birth of a Nation.
Despite the tightly staged opening sequence, The House with Closed Shutters is overall fairly average. With its story tending more towards melodrama than action there is unfortunately plenty of scope for pantomimey acting (the chief offender here being Grace Henderson). But it does serve as another example of Griffith's attitude to the war that neither side in the conflict was right or wrong, but that heroism, duty and honour are important above all else, regardless of their cause.
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