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The Sunbeam (1912)

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Set in a tenement boarding house, a lonely confirmed bachelor occupies a room across the hall from a dour spinster. Children run amok in the hallways playing pranks. Believing the bachelor ... See full summary »

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Title: The Sunbeam (1912)

The Sunbeam (1912) on IMDb 6.4/10

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Cast

Cast overview:
Ynez Seabury ...
Sunbeam
Kate Bruce ...
Sunbeam's Mamma
...
Spinster
Dell Henderson ...
Bachelor
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Storyline

Set in a tenement boarding house, a lonely confirmed bachelor occupies a room across the hall from a dour spinster. Children run amok in the hallways playing pranks. Believing the bachelor perpetrated one particular prank, the spinster woman enters his room to confront him. She is followed by a neighbor child. Meanwhile, the other children have stolen a scarlet fever quarantine sign and posted it on the bachelor's door. The police, unaware that the quarentine sign is a prank, enforce the confinement. But aided by the sweet disposition of the toddler quarantined with them, the icy relations between spinster and bachelor begin to thaw, . . . Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

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slum | melodrama | See All (2) »

Genres:

Drama | Short | Romance

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Release Date:

26 February 1912 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
"There are still rivers to cross"
27 June 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

Griffith's career at Biograph went in a kind of cycle. His earliest films tended to be big, outdoor action pieces, and he would eventually work his way back to making some very polished action films like Battle of Elderbrush Gulch and Judith of Bethulia. However, in the middle of this period, from 1911 to 1913 he mostly worked on a smaller canvas, focusing on acting performances and refining his use of indoor space. This charming little comedy is among his most understated and intimate shorts.

The story of The Sunbeam is played out in just five indoor sets. It's one of what I call Griffith's "dollhouse" pictures. The layout of a building is shown through the arrangement of the rooms as if we are watching the scenes take place in an open-fronted dollhouse. The careful ordering of the shots, plus the way each set is shown (e.g. door on the right in the left-hand apartment and vice versa) mean we instantly grasp the set-up.

Griffith did not do many out-and-out comedies, but his handling of the genre is remarkable. What we are perhaps seeing here is the birth of comedy direction. Comedy performances had been filmed since the beginning of cinema, and Georges Melies in particular had a wonderful comic imagination and sense of timing. In The Sunbeam however, the very way it is filmed adds to the comedy. The establishment of the different spaces allows gags like the door handles being tied together work. The best of the actors' comic performances are allowed to play out in single takes, while the more farcical moments are punctuated by the edits. Even the symmetry of the two apartments gives an extra note of silliness to the unlikely romance of their tenants.

So Griffith was perhaps the first to realise that directing a comedy was not just about filming a comedian. Certainly his style had an impact upon Charles Chaplin and Ernst Lubitsch. The Sunbeam is a forerunner of silent comedies such as Lubitsch's The Marriage Circle and Rene Clair's Italian Straw Hat, both of which use the camera as part of the comedy. With its dark undertones – typical, of course, of Griffith but not comedy in general – The Sunbeam also demonstrates how comic relief can give tragedy a bittersweet edge.


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