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One Is Business, the Other Crime (1912)

Griffith intercuts between the lives of two couples married on the same day. One couple is rich, the other is poor. Time passes, and in desperation over joblessness, the poor husband ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Charles West ...
Poor Husband
Dorothy Bernard ...
Poor Wife
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Rich Husband
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Rich Wife
Frank Evans ...
The Landlord
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Griffith intercuts between the lives of two couples married on the same day. One couple is rich, the other is poor. Time passes, and in desperation over joblessness, the poor husband attempts to burgle a home, only to be captured a gunpoint by the mistress of the house. It is the home of the rich couple. While holding the poor intruder at gunpoint, the rich wife accidently discovers evidence implicating her own husband in a bribery scheme . . . Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

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Short | Drama

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25 April 1912 (USA)  »

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1.37 : 1
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Griffith and his Biograph players in their prime
1 August 2006 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This short drama serves as a good example of what D.W. Griffith could achieve when he and his Biograph troupe were in their prime. The story is simple yet involving, and is told with a minimum of title cards. The acting is notably restrained (especially compared with most films made concurrently), and we never get the sense that any of the performers are exaggerating, playing to the camera or "milking it." For the most part Griffith photographs his actors head-on and never indulges himself in any showy camera angles or flashy editing, for this isn't a story that calls for dazzling technique. In the final scenes a simple lighting effect, meant to suggest the first rays of the rising sun, is used to good dramatic effect, but it's the performances that move us, and that would be true if we were watching this same story enacted on stage. In this short drama Griffith's greatest contribution was to coax sensitive performances from his players and then simply to keep out of their way.

The story concerns two young couples, one poor and one rich, who marry at about the same time and each "vow to follow the straight path." We trace the fortunes of each couple as they hit a patch of bad road: the poor husband can't find a job despite repeated attempts, while the rich husband is offered a tempting bribe by a local railway company. When the poor couple is threatened with eviction for non-payment of rent the man finally yields to temptation and attempts to burglarize the home of the wealthy couple. The wife catches him in the act but in so doing becomes aware of her own husband's complicity in dirty dealing.

Without revealing the ending I'll suggest that some viewers may find it sentimental and not entirely credible, but all I can add is that it is played with 100% commitment by the actors and leaves us with a glimmer of hope for the characters' future. (Considering how many Biograph dramas end in tragedy, I must say this came as something of a relief.) The actors are uniformly excellent but special mention should go to Dorothy Bernard, who plays the "poor" wife. She had a highly expressive, readable face and beautiful eyes, and conveys a great deal without overplaying. We can only wonder why she didn't become one of the top Biograph stars, like Mary Pickford or Lillian Gish. Based on the evidence here, at least, she was a gifted actress.

One last note: content aside, I'd have to say that this little movie bears one of Griffith's best-ever titles, right up there with What Shall We Do with Our Old? and The Birth of a Nation. That is, once you see this one listed in Griffith's filmography you immediately want to know what it's about. In this case, happily, the content more than satisfies our curiosity: in its own modest way, One is Business, the Other Crime is one of Griffith's most satisfying Biograph dramas.


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