Thieves decide to steal the money an old miser has hidden away. He refuses to open the safe for them, so they threaten to kill a girl who lives in his building.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Kathy's Mother
...
Jules, the Thief
William J. Butler ...
Policeman
...
Policeman
Adele DeGarde ...
Neighbor
Edward Dillon ...
Down-and-Out Young Man
Frank Evans ...
Policeman
...
The Little Child
...
Bakeshop Assistant
Adolph Lestina ...
The Miser
...
First Crook
...
Second Crook
...
Policeman
W.C. Robinson ...
In Front of Clothing Store
Ynez Seabury ...
Little Kathy
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Storyline

An old miser living in an east side tenement, forms quite an attachment for a little child in the same house. The old miser is reputed to keep a large amount of money in a safe in his room, and a couple of crooks decide to take a chance to get it. They enter his room by way of the fire-escape, and tying him to a chair, try to force him to tell the combination of his safe. The little child happens in the room, and to further compel him, they suspend the child out of the window on a rope, threatening to let her drop if he does not give the combination. A tramp sees the child hanging from the window and hastens to the police station for aid. On his way he passes a baker boy from whom he stole a bag of rolls, and the boy, following, has him locked up without giving him a chance to explain the object of his errand. The captain, however, consents to hear the tramp out, and sends a quartet of incredulous policemen, who receive a shock when they find the truth of the tramp's story. The child ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

miser | safe | petty thief | thief | rope | See All (25) »

Genres:

Short | Crime | Drama | Thriller

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Release Date:

20 November 1911 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Сердце скряги  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
"When danger threatens loved ones"
22 June 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

It may come from the end of 1911, but The Miser's Heart marks the beginning of the run of really outstanding shorts Griffith made at Biograph during 1912. His handling of suspense and human elements had been steadily developing over the years, and here he brings them together in a picture that is at times nearly perfect.

Griffith takes special care to set up his characters, giving them well-defined introductory scenes. This is an important development, and something that is missing from Griffith's earlier action films. The fact that we are given time to get to know these individuals makes us care when they are in danger. Although it's the melting of the eponymous miser's heart that is the main focus, it's Lionel Barrymore who gives the best performance as Jules the Thief, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Charlie Chaplin's screen persona. A mischievous yet kind-hearted petty-thief who saves the day yet eventually goes unrewarded, Jules may or may not have been a direct influence on Chaplin, but he certainly has a similar, poignant, impact.

By now, Griffith was honing his ride-to-the-rescue climaxes down to a fine art. Here, he juggles the various elements to heighten tension – complicating Jules' rescue efforts by his getting arrested, and using the burning rope to visually establish a time limit. Rather than simply flicking back and forth between two locations, Griffith edits between different spaces – going from the close-up of the flame to the long shot of the girl suspended over the street. Each of these shots is a single "fact" – the cinematic equivalent of a sentence. The one failing of this sequence is that it is a little short, so the sense of danger never quite builds.

There is a real outpouring of warmth and humanity in this picture, and this extends to the composition of the shots. If you get the chance pause the film in the penultimate scene, when the little girl, the mother and the miser all reach towards each other – at 15:33 on the version I have seen, although it may vary at other playing speeds – it's one of the most perfect tableaux in all Griffith's work.


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