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Intolerance and its terrible effects are examined in four historical eras. In ancient Babylon, a mountain girl is caught up in the religious rivalry that leads to the city's downfall. In Judea, the hypocritical Pharisees condemn Jesus Christ. In 1572 Paris, unaware of the impending St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, two young Huguenots prepare for marriage. Finally, in modern America, social reformers destroy the lives of a young woman and her beloved. Written by
Erik Gregersen <email@example.com>
Including among the '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die', edited by Steven Jay Schneider. See more »
In the opening of the Babelonian story, shortly before the intertitle reading "Dearest one - in the ash heaps of my back yard...etc." (spoken by the Rapsode), a group of extras behind the Mountain Girl are shown get up and walk off to the left. In the next shot, when the Rapsode puts his face up to the Mountain Girl's ear to speak his line, these extras are shown to still be seated in their former places. See more »
Constance Talmadge is credited as 'Georgia Pearce' for her performance as Marguerite de Valois in the French Story. She is credited under her own name in the role of The Mountain Girl in the Babylonian Story. See more »
This mammoth production and DW Griffith's 1916 masterpiece was his followup to The Birth of a Nation. Intolerance blends 4 stories of historical intolerance as a warning against the current-day evils of war. The French and Judean stories are OK. The Babylonian and Modern stories are spectacular. Where Griffith experimented with closeups and intercutting stories in Birth of a Nation, these techniques are mastered in Intolerance. Griffith also continues his incredible eye for composition and scenery and costumes in this epic film.
The sets and costumes for the Babylonian story are among the best in film history. And the battle scenes equal anything in Birth of a Nation. Griffith's Babylonian set is so huge it allows for horse-drawn chariots to ride side by side on the road at the top of the towering walls. The camera shot that shows the chariots and the battle many stories below is astounding. There is also the famous camera shot that slowly moves closer and closer the the city steps and gates where hundreds of dancers perform a pagan production number. Just amazing.
The emotional oomph of this film comes from the modern story where a young couple living in a tenement apartment almost gets destroyed by society do-gooders. The intercutting of scenes here is masterful as the rescuers race to save the hero who is about to be hanged. Melodrama to be sure, but in a form never seen before 1916.
And as usual Griffith assembles a terrific cast and elicits great performances from many of them.
Constance Talmadge plays the cinema's first feminist heroine as the Mountain Girl in the Babylonian story. She's wonderful as the saucy girl who eats onions while on the block to be sold as a slave. As the men come near to examine her (she's dressed in a pelt) she shakes her onions at them and kicks at them. Hilarious. The story is complicated but she overhears a plot to attack the city and the ruler (who set her free) she adores. Great scenes of Talmadge racing a chariot through the desert. Great battle scenes that are unforgettable. Great orgy scenes. This is just a wonderful story that is so eye-filling, you have to watch it several times to take everything in.
The modern story boasts a perfect performance by Mae Marsh as the "Dear One." Robert Harron is the husband, and Miriam Cooper (very underrated) is the "bad girl." One of the most harrowing scenes I can remember is when the "do-gooders" (headed by Vera Lewis) come to take Marsh's baby after Harron is falsely arrest for murder. Marsh is so realistic in this frenzied scene that your heart just stops. Harron is also excellent as the hapless boy who gets framed for murder. The editing of this arc of the film sets the standard for decades to come.
Intolerance must be seen by any serious film buff. It's a long film but is unforgettable. The cast list is impressive and includes the above-mentioned Constance Talmadge, Mae Marsh, Robert Harron, Miriam Cooper, Lillian Gish, Vera Lewis, Ralph Lewis, Douglas Fairbanks, Bessie Love, Wallace Reid, Elmo Lincoln, Elmer Clifton, Mary Alden, Constance Collier, Carmel Myers, Erich von Stroheim, Donald Crisp, Carol Dempster, Marguerite Marsh, Tully Marshall, Natalie Talmadge, Alma Rubens, Seena Owen, Margery Wilson, Eugene Palette, Ethel Grey Terry, Owen Moore, Alfred Paget, Joseph Henabery, Josephine Crowell, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Mildred Harris, Walter Long, Sam De Grasse, Monte Blue, Kate Bruce, Nigel De Brulier, Pauline Starke, Lillian Langdon, and future directors King Vidor, Frank Borzage, and Tod Browning!
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