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Story of two brothers who go off to France to fight in World War I, the women who love them and an American expatriate living in France who rallies behind his former country. Written by
a minor Griffith film brightened by supporting stars
The Girl Who Stayed Behind is one of Griffith's minor works. A programmer that he hoped would raise some money after the financial disaster of Intolerance. It was part of a group of films that were made with some original footage and some left over footage from Hearts of the World. The main plot is quite predictable. The scenes of the lost patrol holding on despite hunger and thirst are poorly done to the point of embarrassment. Mixed with actual war footage the Griffith took when he was in France, the staged scened look rather - staged, and badly staged at that. They fail to convince.
But even a poor Griffith film has its surprises and rewards. In this case the sub-plot with Robert Harron and Clairine Seymour is quite good. Although they both start out as stereotypical young characters from the beginning of the jazz age, they both develop outside their shallow types into real and unique individuals.
The real problem is not so much the plot, Griffith's plots were often very predictable, it is the main actors. Richard Barthelmess never develops a real presence in the film. But Griffith does not give him much to work with so I can't really blame him. However, Carol Dempster has no such excuse. In this film she acts very woodenly and although she learned to act well in some of her later films ("Isn't Life Wonderful" for example) she never had the screen presence needed to be a star, even in her best roles. Her performance here is flat and lackluster, almost like a department store dummy. On the other hand, Robert Harron and Clairine Seymour both had presence to burn. They command the screen and they invest their roles with life. It is a pity that Robert Harron and Clairine Seymour did not live to become the legends that they could have. The film rates a 5 for their performances.
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