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His Trust: The Faithful Devotion and Self-Sacrifice of an Old Negro Servant (1911)

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A Confederate officer is called off to war. He leaves his wife and daughter in the care of George, his faithful Negro servant. After the officer is killed in an exciting battle sequence, ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
George
Dell Henderson ...
Colonel Frazier
...
Colonel Frazier's Wife
...
The Fraziers' Child
...
The Daughter as an Adult
Harry Hyde ...
The Daughter's Sweetheart
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Dorothy Bernard
Kate Bruce
Adele DeGarde
Grace Henderson
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Storyline

A Confederate officer is called off to war. He leaves his wife and daughter in the care of George, his faithful Negro servant. After the officer is killed in an exciting battle sequence, George continues in his caring duties, faithful to his trust. Events continue to turn for the worse when invading Yankee soldiers arrive to loot and torch the widow's home. George saves the officer's daughter and battle sword by braving the flames. Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

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Short | Drama | War

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Release Date:

16 January 1911 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

His Trust  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Connections

Followed by His Trust Fulfilled (1911) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"When war has winged its wide desolation"
17 June 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

His Trust is not particularly remarkable as Griffith Civil War shorts go, except for one aspect. Along with its sequel His Trust Fulfilled, it features the only heroic black character in all his films. That's not to let Griffith off the hook for the appalling racism of Birth of a Nation – this is still a rather patronising portrayal, not to mention the ridiculous use of white actors in blackface. However it is further proof that Griffith was not an out-and-out racist, and it even hints tentatively at miscegenation.

Throughout Griffith's dozen or so Civil War shorts he made while at Biograph you can see the battle scenes evolving. In the one here, the emphasis is more upon chaos than heroism. It's an important development, although Griffith never quite mastered the depiction of war as tragedy – he could never get away from trying to make action sequences exciting. Still, there is some good staging here, with Griffith foregrounding individual soldiers being shot against the backdrop of gun smoke, making the casualties stand out and appear real.

The battle sequence is brief however, and you can see what Griffith is really trying to develop here is the emotional angle. Unfortunately, while the family scenes are given prominence, they are not done especially well. The scene of the soldiers going off to war is actually a step backwards from the very similar one in his previous civil war film In the Border States. The shot composition is rather messy, and you barely notice Claire McDowell slipping indoors, distraught. Another weakness is that Griffith fails to visually introduce Wilfred Lucas' character. The significance of the "old Negro servant" is mentioned in the opening title, but in his first scene he is shoved to the side of the frame, and the all important moment where the trust is given takes place half on and half off screen.

The standout moment in His Trust is towards the end, where the mother and daughter watch their home burn to the ground. It's said that Griffith invented the face in cinema. Well, he probably also invented the back. As in The Unchanging Sea, this is a good example of how he faces actors away from the camera to convey sadness with the subtlety of their body language. There's also a great bit of emotional punctuation as the house finally comes crashing down. However, this well-staged moment is not enough to save what is overall a rather dull picture.


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