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Hearts of the World (1918)

TV-PG | | Drama, War | June 1918 (UK)
Young lovers in a French village are torn apart with the coming of the Great War.



(English translation) (as Capt. Victor Marier), (scenario) (as M. Gaston de Tolignac)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Adolph Lestina ...
The Grandfather
Josephine Crowell ...
The Mother
The Girl - Marie Stephenson
The Boy - Douglas Gordon Hamilton
Jack Cosgrave ...
The Father of the Boy
Kate Bruce ...
The Mother of the Boy
The Boy's Littlest Brother
Marion Emmons ...
The Boy's Other Brother (as M. Emmons)
Francis Marion ...
The Boy's Other Brother (as F. Marion)
The Little Disturber
Robert Anderson ...
Monsieur Cuckoo
George Fawcett ...
The Village Carpenter
Von Strohm
Fay Holderness ...
The Innkeeper
L. Lowry ...
A Deaf and Blind Musician


A group of youngsters grow up and love in a peaceful French village. But war intrudes and peace is shattered. The German army invades and occupies village, bringing both destruction and torture. The young people of the village resist, some successfully, others tragically, until French troops retake the town. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


D.W. Griffith's Supreme Triumph See more »


Drama | War






Release Date:

June 1918 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Love's Struggle  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Cast member Robert Harron's entire family was cast in this film. See more »


Referenced in The Great Director (1966) See more »

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User Reviews

"War's old song of hate"
23 March 2011 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

What we have here is one of the first generation of propaganda pictures. A few of these appeared in the final years of the First World War, after the US had joined the conflict and just as young Hollywood was beginning to realise the influential power of its medium. This was a war in which nineteenth century pomp and nationalism combined with twentieth century military technology, and as such it was sold with an aggressive and hypocritical zeal.

Hearts of the World happens to be directed by DW Griffith, who had probably done more than anyone else to make the industry what it now was. It appears however that the soft-hearted humanitarian didn't quite have it in him to be a gung-ho warmonger. On the one hand he does make the Germans out to be a bunch of barbaric would-be rapists, but this is actually a fairly restrained portrayal compared to your average recruitment poster of the time, as well as many other movies on other subjects – check out for example the super-ugly anarchist in 1928 white Russian film Tempest. Griffith even seems to be working in a message of sympathy, throwing us some near identical close-ups of a German soldier and Bobby Haron in the first battle scene. And rather than getting us all excited about the business of killing people, Griffith focuses much more on the possibilities of peace and safe homecoming. This is in fact laid on a little too heavily in the early intertitles, the street on which the characters live being called Rue de la Paix (Road of Peace), and a title pointing out that the goslings Lillian Gish fondles are "harmless". Griffith would have been better off relying upon the strength of his images.

And the images here are strong as always. Griffith's scenes of rural idyll are a far more succinct evocation of peace and happiness than his words. A particularly beautiful moment typical of the director is when Gish and Haron meet by the wall of his house, with the actress neatly framed amid ivy creepers like a little portrait. Griffith employs some of his oldest cinematic tricks, for example having villainous George Siegmann walking towards us, showing his actions and mannerisms as he approaches, and finally giving us a menacing close-up as he brushes past the camera, all within one shot. As always one of the director's greatest strengths is the way in which he orchestrates a sequence. Take for example the point at which war is declared and the men go off to fight. We get some busy and intense shots of soldiers marching off and tearful goodbyes, cutting dynamically from one vignette to another. The whole thing ends however with a slow and simple shot of Gish putting away her wedding dress, a poignant ritardando to the frenzy that went before it.

This is one of a handful of features in which both the Gish sisters Lillian and Dorothy appeared. As was usually the case, younger sister Dorothy plays a comical secondary character, alongside a comical secondary actor (Robert Anderson) to form a comical secondary romantic story. She spends most of this picture huffing indignantly and waddling around. It's not a very funny act. Even Lillian is not especially good in this one, her performance being largely wide-eyed innocence or wild hysterics. This was a problem in Broken Blossoms (1919) too, and I think it has a lot to do with her being put into girlish roles that were beneath her. In the early 1910s Griffith seemed to be wanting the actress to grow up quick, putting her in very mature roles in Musketeers of Pig Alley and The Mothering Heart. Perhaps influenced by the more popular Mary Pickford, who had around this time rather disturbingly reverted to child roles, Gish went through a phase of playing it young and cutesy. It didn't suit her, and the poor characterisation really harms this picture.

Hearts of the World is, in an odd kind of way, everything that the typical wartime propaganda picture is – naïve, formulaic and painfully idealistic. But it has also has the propaganda movie's capacity for well-made action sequences, and these are among the pictures few saving graces. Griffith has not lost his touch at putting together a rousing finale, mixing the big canvas (explosions, hordes of soldiers) with the small (Haron's little brothers sheltering together from the melee) in a cross-cutting extravaganza. The story may be a little weaker this time round, as Griffith's stories increasingly would be, but the pioneering director has lost none of his ability to move and excite with the power of his images.

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