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The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913)

The fact that an Indian tribe is eating puppies starts an action packed battle in a western town.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Sally Cameron
Leslie Loveridge ...
The Waif
...
The Waifs' Uncle
...
The Father
...
Melissa Harlow
...
Ranch Owner
William A. Carroll ...
The Mexican
Frank Opperman ...
The Indian Chief
...
The Indian Chief's Son
Joseph McDermott ...
The Waifs' Guardian
Jennie Lee ...
The Waifs' Guardian
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Kate Bruce ...
Settler
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Storyline

The fact that an Indian tribe is eating puppies starts an action packed battle in a western town.

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Exclusive Biograph Masterpiece

Genres:

Short | Action | Western

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Release Date:

December 1913 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Batalha de Elderbusch Gulch  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Trivia

In 1972 Kemp Niver and Historical Films of Los Angeles published 'D. W. Griffith's The Battle of Elderbush Gulch,' a reconstruction of the film from frame enlargements. See more »

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User Reviews

 
"May you eat dog and live long"
2 August 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

The Battle at Elderbrush Gulch was Griffith's longest and most expensive short he had made up to that point. In it we see him trying to perfect the large-scale action scene that would be necessary in his full-length features, packing in all the elements that had made his previous action shorts successful.

Griffith uses the western format – already the ideal backdrop for pure, straight-ahead action set pieces – as the setting for his first epic battle. Like many westerns of the 1910s, the starting point is a character from the east heading out west – a device which perhaps helped ease the audience into the wilderness, and here those easterners are a pair of children, which was important for the type of picture this develops into. For Griffith, you couldn't have action without a sense of vulnerability and here he crams it in, with the kids from back east, Lillian Gish as the distraught mother of "the only baby in town" and even some puppies that are at risk of ending up on the Indians' menu.

All this paves the way for an exceedingly complex and layered action sequence, blending the trapped heroine scenario and the ride-to-the-rescue with the battles that Griffith had been depicting since his earliest Civil War pictures in 1909. There is a phenomenal amount going on here, and Griffith does very well at maintaining the exhilarating pace throughout and keeping everything coherent and logical. However, juggling x amount of elements in an action sequence does not necessarily make it that many times more exciting, no matter how skilfully they are balanced, and Griffith did create better tension-soaked finales before and after this one.

But even a Griffith picture so heavily focused on action would not be without its drama, characterisation and atmospherics. In The Battle at Elderbrush Gulch, the emotional set-up is dealt with briefly but economically. First, we have the scene in which the waifs leave their home. The cart they travel on heads away from the camera, making use of depth and distance to express their moving away from safety and civilization. An equally effective scene is the one in which we are introduced to the young family of Gish, Bobby Harron and their baby. The people of the town coo over the precious tot, then saunter off screen, revealing that two Indians were watching them from the background, adding a sinister little note of danger.

Of course, many viewers today have pointed out The Battle at Elderbrush Gulch's offensive portrayal of Native Americans (in contrast with the more sympathetic Red Man's View), but perhaps all is not what it seems. First of all, take a look at the Indian Chief's son's waistcoat – it's black and covered in shiny white dots. It looks to me like a pearly king's jacket, perhaps modified slightly for the warmer climate. Now have a look at the "war dance" they perform later on – it has a certain "knees-up Mother Brown" air to it. These aren't Indians, they're cockneys! So it shouldn't be offensive to Native Americans. Just cockneys.


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