A young wife and her musician husband live in poverty in a New York City tenement. The husband's job requires him to go away for for a number of days. On his return, he is robbed by the ... See full summary »
The young village minister was not quite as discreet as he might have been in fulfilling the strange trust left by the dying mother, but it certainly worked for the common good. By the ... See full summary »
Charles Hill Mailes,
The physician's death orphans his two adolescent daughters. Their older brother is able to convert some of the doctor's small estate to cash. But it is late in the day, and with the banks ... See full summary »
Two business partners pursue the same woman. She accepts the marriage proposal of the irresponsible partner, much to her later regret. He squanders money on gambling, as his interest in her... See full summary »
Henry B. Walthall,
At the royal court, a prince is presenting the princess whom he is pledged to marry, when a witch suddenly appears. Though driven off, the witch soon returns, summons some of her servants, ... See full summary »
The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.
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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