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The Painted Lady (1912)

A lonely young woman lives with her strict father who forbids her to wear make-up. One day at an ice cream social, she meets a young man you seems interested in her. However, unknown to her... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
The Older Sister
Madge Kirby ...
The Younger Sister
...
Their Father
Kate Bruce ...
Their Mother
...
The Stranger
William J. Butler ...
The Minister
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Storyline

A lonely young woman lives with her strict father who forbids her to wear make-up. One day at an ice cream social, she meets a young man you seems interested in her. However, unknown to her, he is a burglar who is only interested in breaking into her father's house. One night she is awakened by a noise. Grabbing a pistol, she enters her father's downstairs office where she confronts a masked intruder . . . Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

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Short | Drama

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Release Date:

24 October 1912 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A festett asszony  »

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1.33 : 1
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"I look so pale"
14 July 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

After a year or two of working with very small casts and perfecting his direction of actors, Griffith was by this point starting to work his way back towards the larger scale pictures, but still retaining the intimate, human focus. The Painted Lady demonstrates how he could make such an individual drama against the backdrop of crowds and moments of action.

This is a film about madness and isolation. Griffith demonstrates that isolation in a crowd shot early on. As opposed to the rather cluttered and confusing crowd scenes of Griffith's earliest works, the focus here is very clear. Blanche Sweet literally stands out from the crowd, a passive and solitary figure against a backdrop of much activity and excitement. Later, he repeatedly uses the very plain bridge location which forces us to focus totally upon her.

Although the Painted Lady does contain an action sequence of the kind that might normally be the climax of a Biograph short, Griffith instead makes it the catalyst for the final act. He doesn't dwell on it, and so it doesn't overwhelm the second half of the film. The slowness of the final scenes forms a balance with the first half, and they have a greater impact as a result.

Prior to this, while the acting in Griffith's shorts was becoming increasingly naturalistic, his actors still often slipped into over-the-top pantomiming when their characters' emotions ran high. Here however, in a picture that has a lot of scope for melodrama with its murder and madness, Sweet surprisingly manages to keep it relatively real. Importantly Griffith also encourages a deep performance from her by doing very long takes of her madness scenes.

The Painted Lady has aged better than most Griffith pictures, and is still very effective today mainly thanks to Blanche Sweet's acting. It goes to show that the depiction of a deranged loner unable to connect with society goes back a lot further than Travis Bickle.


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