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It is very interesting to see Lionel Barrymore in an early role. This film is one D.W. Griffith's best shorts equipped with good acting, humor, suspense, and crime. It starts off introducing you to a little girl and her sick mother. The Miser is introduced when he gives the little girl some bread. Lionel Barrymore is Jules, the thief who is forced to leave town by the Police. Not being able to resist the temptation Jules steals bread on his way out of town. He hides on a roof, soon accompanied by the little girl. Taking a liking to the girl Jules gives the girl some bread, not realizing the dangerous situation the girl will soon be in. A MUST see for all film buffs or Lionel Barrymore fans.
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.
This is a somewhat uneven but very interesting D.W. Griffith drama,
with many of the kinds of touches that came to characterize his work.
He gets good performances from his cast, tells the story with his usual
technical skill, and uses it to bring out some worthwhile insights on
human nature. Only the rather contrived nature of the plot detracts
from the overall quality. One of Lionel Barrymore's earliest roles also
makes it well worth watching.
The story focuses on a young child - for whom Griffith takes care to build up sympathy before the main action starts - and her friendships with an old miser and with a homeless petty thief. When she is put in peril by a pair of dangerous criminals, both of her friends have tough decisions to make: the miser must choose between her safety and his money, while the thief would have to risk dealing with the police to save her.
Although some of the elements in the setup had to be forced slightly in order to bring about the key situation, this is certainly excusable in view of the interesting themes and ideas that it brings out. These are the kinds of contrasts and moral dilemmas that sometimes brought out the best in Griffith. It works well, and because the key ideas are so significant, it still holds up rather well, too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Miser's Heart" was made back in 1911, so it was obviously still a silent black-and-white film. It runs for 16 minutes and is one more proof that D. W. Griffith was easily the best drama director of his era. We have a kidnapping situation here, a child in danger hanging from a window, the candle idea, a robbery, a pair of safe-crackers, but of course a happy ending. This ending creates a nice frame with the beginning where we find out where the girl's mother actually is. This film has a touch of Grinch and Scrooge McDuck to it in my opinion. The story was easy to understand, which is not always the case with these early films. However, the role of the guy who is released from prison is a bit weak. Of course he leads the police to the crime scene, but it's all a bit too little, too late. However, this did take hardly away anything from the film at all. Not a great watch, but a good one. Some famous names in here too including Oscar winners Barrymore and Crisp. All in all, recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Okay, if you are looking for realism, then this film is NOT for you! This early D. W. Griffith short is a very entertaining film that just seems stupid and totally improbable if you think too much about what's happening on screen! A miser hoards his money. However, unlike some film misers, he's a nice guy and loves a neighbor's cute little daughter. Some scumbags want his money but can't open the safe, so they threaten the girl's life in the most over-the-top and unbelievable way I could imagine--but, it's also pretty entertaining in a brain-numbing sort of way. And, of course, like all Griffith morality plays, everything is sure to work out in the end. Plus, uncharacteristically, Griffith has the girl and the man saved through the actions of a vagrant who'd been ordered to leave town--none other than Lionel Barrymore!
Early film directed by D.W. Griffith. This time, it's about a little
girl finding herself in danger. Little Kathy is let alone to wander
around (she looks like she could be three years old!) town; among her
friends are a Miser and a Thief. While she visit's the Miser, he is
burglarized. He refuses, however, to give the thieves the combination
to his safe - so, they set up a life-threatening peril for the little
girl. Will the Miser give up his money? Can the thief save Kathy? Will
her mother bother looking for her? Those questions, and more, may be
The film's little "star" sometimes needs the adults to help with her acting. The climatic "rope" ending is a little hard to follow. Lionel Barrymore is the most fun to watch in "The Miser's Heart".
*** The Miser's Heart (11/20/11) D.W. Griffith ~ Lionel Barrymore, Adolph Lestina, Ynez Seabury
In 1911, the 36 year old D.W. Griffith enlisted the talent of the 33 year old Lionel Barrymore in 'Fighting Blood', 'The Battle', and 'The Miser's Heart'. Barrymore was Griffith's chosen representative to be American's man in the civil war, and the conduit with the indigenous community.
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