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Hearts of the World (1918)

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



(English translation), (scenario)
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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
George Siegmann ...
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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


LILLIAN GISH AS "THE GIRL" - DOROTHY GISH AS "THE LITTLE DISTURBER" - (original poster-all caps) 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
See  »

Did You Know?


French battle scenes were staged in Surrey, England. See more »


Featured in Hollywood: Hollywood Goes to War (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

Love and War
19 September 2009 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

HEARTS OF THE WORLD (Paramount/Artcraft, 1918), under personal direction by D.W. Griffith, which lives up to it's subtitle, "an old-fashioned play with a new fashioned theme," is an important contribution to the American silent screen. Known as a propaganda effort, Griffith brings forth his feelings towards war with opening inter-title: "God help the nation that begins another war of conquest of meddling. Brass bands and clanging sabers make fine music, but let us remember that there is another side of war. After all, does war settle any question? The south was divided - thousands of lives were sacrificed by the Civil War, yet did it really settle the black and white problem in this country?" Following the pattern of Griffith's controversial melodrama, THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), HEARTS OF THE WORLD, at two hours, is very much a recycling of that epic, moving its time frame from the Civil War South (1861-1865) to its more recent battleground of the World War (1914-1918), making this particular one something from the time capsule.

The narrative begins during the peaceful days of 1912 in an unnamed French village where two American families, the Hamiltons (Jack Cosgrove and Kate Bruce) and the Stephensons (Adolphe Lestina and Josephine Crowell) live in a double house on the Rue De La Paix (Street of Peace). Marie Stephenson (Lillian Gish), having just returned from her visit with her aunt in Rheims, and Douglas Gordon Hamilton (Robert Harron), an artist and poet just back from Paris, with three younger brothers (Marion Simmons, Francis Marion) and the littlest one (Ben Alexander) who worships him, the neighboring boy and girl eventually meet, start a courtship that turns to eternal love. On the day of their wedding, war is declared. Douglas enlists along with his friends, Cuckoo (Robert Anderson), and the village carpenter (George  Fawcett), calling themselves "The Three Musketeers." As Douglas leaves Marie to fight for France, so does Cuckoo, who has fallen in love with a street singer known as "The Little Disturber" (Dorothy Gish). As the men face uncertainties fighting in the trenches, the once peaceful village is taken over by Von Strohm (George Siegmann), leader of the enemy Germans who once lived in that village, not only has his regiment burn portions of it, but places the women to extreme measures working labor jobs, to be brutally whipped (namely Marie) when unable to fulfill their tasks. Part II, "Struggle of Civilization" soon follows.

In spite of its age, HEARTS OF THE WORLD is fine storytelling with many elements now associated by Griffith, from the development of his central characters (the Griffith trademark where families affectionately kiss on the mouth); to his attention to detail with the camera recording fine visuals of actual location footage around France, and inter-cutting between war on the front and survival in the village. The scene where the younger Hamilton boys taking it upon themselves to bury their dead mother ("No prayers, save childish tears") is highly effective and quite moving.  

With the large cast headed by Griffith's most frequent co-stars, Lillian Gish and Robert Harron, the center of attention is nearly drawn towards Lillian's sister, Dorothy. The Gish sisters, who share little screen time together, work remarkably well in their assigned roles. Lillian, an outstanding actress here in the manner of Mary Pickford sporting curly hair, starts off her girlish charms as the aggressor attracting the boy next door, maturing as the story progresses. Her most dramatic moment occurs following the death of her mother. Her facial change of emotions from disbelief to shock is realistically done. Under incapable hands, this scene would have been laughable. Another scene worth noting occurs later as Gish's character walks aimlessly through the battlefield only to find her wounded beloved (Harron), whom she mistakes as dead. As for Dorothy, she provides the lighter side to the story with her comedic flair as the flirtatious young girl who attracts men with a blink of an eye. At one point she forces herself upon the boy (Harron) the very moment to be spotted by the girl (Lillian) who loves him. Wearing a large beret over her very dark hair and sporting ordinary clothes, her role could very well be the predecessor to Renee Adoree's performance in King Vidor's epic war drama, THE BIG PARADE (MGM, 1925) or categorized as a predate of the high-spirited Clara Bow of the 1920s. Regardless, Dorothy Gish, an underrated actress whose many movies lack availability today, deserves praise for her work as "The Little Disturber."

Other members in support are include L. Lowery (The Deaf and Blind Musician); George Nichols (The German Sergeant); Erich Von Stroheim (The German Soldier); and Fay Holderness (The Innkeeper). Appearing briefly are Mary Gish (Lillian & Dorothy's mother); and future playwright/actor Noel Coward as a man with wheelbarrow.

With occasional revivals at New York City's Museum of Modern Art's film department, HEARTS OF THE WORLD was introduced to New York's own public television WNET, Channel 13, in September 1977, as part of its weekly series, "Films of Persuasion," the second movie following the premiere presentation of Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION. Distributed to home video in 1991, with excellent piano score by William Perry from the Killiam Collection, HEARTS OF THE WORLD did have limited cable TV presentation on Turner Classic Movies "Silent Sunday Nights" where it premiered in 2002. Though presented on VHS, the two minute prologue prior to the movie showing D.W. Griffith filming in the British line of Cambrin, 50 yards from enemy lines, concluding with he shaking the land of prime minister David Lloyd George on 10 Downing Street, is not included in the TCM print.

Nearly forgotten, HEARTS OF THE WORLD deserves its place in cinema history, and certainly one to consider for film scholars and historians to view and study as one of the few movies from that era not to be lost to the world. (***)

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