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(scenario) (as Monte Katterjohn)
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Mason - the Father
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Doris Mason - the Daughter
Leo Delaney ...
Sam - the Boyfriend
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Mrs. Henpecko
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Comedy | Short

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29 October 1913 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

composition and naturalism in Vitagraph films
27 March 2016 | by (France) – See all my reviews

To judge from the other review here the DVD copy is not a good one. The film is available now on the internet as part of the excellent Dutch EYE collection and, provided one can deal with Dutch subtitles (not really too difficult), it is a very reasonable print. It is a standard one-reeler and runs for about fifteen minutes.

The other reviewer has amply described the story but it is worth noting that it is 1) a very well-composed film and 2) a very realistic piece of domestic comedy. The hat, hanging for instance on the staircase adjacent to the mirror, in which one sees the action reflected, is excellent. The performances particularly those of the director, Brook himself,(as the father and of Talmadge as the daughter, are very naturalistic and the main comic turn, Flora Finch's monocled and besuited henpecker - there is a rather typically anti-feminist swipe here - is funny and just sufficiently restrained to be believable.

These were the characteristics of Vitagraph films most admired and emulated abroad (by Jasset for instance at Éclair or Feuillade at Gaumont). Through a backwards reading of cinema history, people are inclined to believe that it was Griffith at Biograph who excited such admiration but this is not at all true at this period. Griffith's sense of composition was relatively poor and he compensated by continual cutting but this produced a melodramatic, sensationalised effect that had little appeal to the more naturalistic European film-makers.

It was only retrospectively, in the 1920s, that Griffith really attracted the attention of the Europeans (Gance, for instance in France and the social realists in Russia) and not at all because they wanted to make films similar to his - he was in any case no longer making very good films - but because they realised that the editing effects used by Griffith could be put to use in an altogether more radical manner to create montage effects that would be invoked to enhance rather than inhibit naturalism.

It was only in the US itself did the other aspects of Griffith's filming method triumphed to produce the "action" film combined with a much more conventional use of editing (continuity cutting that produces a theatrical ping-pong effect designed to highlight star performers). Sadly for US film, this would become a kind of norm and eventually something of a straitjacket while the emphasis on naturalism and on composition that Vitagraph had represented were largely forgotten and became the preserve of European (and Japanese) film-making, which they have broadly speaking remained ever since.


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