A young couple struggle to get ahead, the wife always assuaging the troubles of her melancholy husband. As he climbs the ladder of success, he abandons the homely values and takes up with ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Joe - the Young Husband
...
The Young Wife
Kate Bruce ...
Young Wife's Mother
Viola Barry ...
The 'Idle Woman' / Outside Club
Charles West ...
The 'New Light' / Among Waiters
Adolph Lestina ...
The Doctor / Club Patron
Jennie Lee ...
The Wash Customer
Charles Murray ...
Male Apache Dancer
Gertrude Bambrick ...
Female Apache Dancer
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Storyline

A young couple struggle to get ahead, the wife always assuaging the troubles of her melancholy husband. As he climbs the ladder of success, he abandons the homely values and takes up with another woman. His wife leaves him, returning to her mother's home where she bears a child. When the husband is abandoned by his concubine, remorse drives him to find his wife... Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

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Short | Drama

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Release Date:

21 June 1913 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Coração Materno  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
"Turning away from homely joys"
1 August 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

Lillian Gish gives her greatest early performance in what is arguably the best Biograph of them all. Here, Griffith puts together all the dramatic techniques he had honed over the past couple of years, and finally seems realise what an asset he had in Gish.

For the first time Griffith really liberates his camera, dispensing with the old either/or situation of three-quarter length shots and extreme close-ups. He puts his camera exactly as far from or as close to the action as it needs to be, often using multiple set-ups in the same location. This is particularly effective in the dance-hall scenes – the large room becomes a real place because the camera really gets inside it. The introduction of the larger space makes it possible to show the flirtation between the husband and the "idle" woman in medium close-ups without it being confusing. The next logical step here would have been for Griffith to introduce the point-of-view shot, but unfortunately that was a step he never took. See Raoul Walsh's Regeneration for what is probably the earliest genuine point-of-view shot.

Ultimately however, all eyes are on Lillian Gish for her powerhouse performance. She works largely with props, facial expressions, and tiny gestures to convey a whole range of emotions. The fact that she does all this whilst barely moving, while incredible in itself, means that her scene of rage where she batters the rose bushes has all the more impact. The rest of the cast is rather unforgettable, and is made more so in comparison to Gish. Walter Miller, the husband, despite several years at Biograph and a number of lead roles, never really did anything outstanding. He is certainly competent here though, and this may be his finest hour, albeit one outshone by the glow of Miss Gish.

Griffith now had his heart set on directing a full length feature, and probably saw this and the other two-reelers he made in 1913 as warm-ups. Here, he reaches the pinnacle of poignant and dramatic expression in his Biograph shorts, and The Mothering Heart can be seen as something of a companion piece to The Battle of Elderbrush Gulch, in which he perfects the large scale action scenes he would need in his features.


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