Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  20 October 1919 (USA)
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Reviews: 76 user | 64 critic

A frail waif, abused by her brutal boxer father in London's seedy Limehouse District, is befriended by a sensitive Chinese immigrant with tragic consequences.



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Complete credited cast:
Lucy - The Girl (as Miss Lillian Gish)
The Yellow Man (as Mr. Richard Barthelmess)
Arthur Howard ...
His Manager
Edward Peil Sr. ...
Evil Eye (as Edward Peil)
George Beranger ...
The Spying One
Norman Selby ...
A Prizefighter


Cheng Huan is a missionary whose goal is to bring the teachings of peace by Buddha to the civilized Anglo-Saxons. Upon landing in England, he is quickly disillusioned by the intolerance and apathy of the country. He becomes a storekeeper of a small shop. Out his window, he sees the young Lucy Burrows. She is regularly beaten by her prizefighter father, underfed and wears ragged clothes. Even in this deplorable condition, Cheng can see that she is a priceless beauty and he falls in love with her from afar. On the day that she passes out in front of his store, he takes her in and cares for her. With nothing but love in his heart, he dresses her in silks and provides food for her. Still weak, she stays in his shop that night and all that Cheng does is watch over her. The peace and happiness that he sees last only until Battling Burrows finds out that his daughter is with a foreigner. Written by Tony Fontana <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




Release Date:

20 October 1919 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Broken Blossoms  »

Box Office


$88,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(tinted screen)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film's premiere engagement included a live prologue featuring a dance routine performed by actress Carol Dempster. During Dempster's dance the stage was illuminated by blue and gold footlights. Later, during the screening of the film, a stagehand accidentally switched on those footlights and the movie screen tinted the film in an unusual way. D.W. Griffith, standing in the rear of the auditorium, was so surprised and delighted at the blue and gold-tinted effect that he ordered all copies of the film to be tinted in those colors during certain key sequences. See more »


The intertitles state, "The Buddha says, 'What thou dost not want others to do thee, do thou not to others.'" It was actually not the Buddha but Confucius' teaching. See more »


Battling Burrows: Take them things off!
See more »

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User Reviews

Feminism, Masculism, Racism, All Dealt With In 'Blossoms'
2 April 2000 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Beyond the weepy, sappy, tear-jerking qualities associated with this Griffith feature, it's actually a landmark film in the annals of feminist films. In a time when women were either out on the street turning tricks, or in the home raising children, this film looks at Lucy Burrows (Miss Gish) who seems to be caught in the middle. Of both the above characteristics of period women, and literally caught between an abusive parental figure, and a caring oriental shop keeper. The question is posed...should she sustain the abuse and stay in the home, or be a social reject by shacking up with this "lowly chinaman"? As in all of Griffith's films, the women are either virtuous or fallen, and the men are either lusting brutes, or effeminate sensitive males.

Many may look aghast at the legendary Barthelmess playing the chinaman, Cheng Huan, or any one of a number of races played by white actors. If not anything else, Blossoms is a great example of stereotypes that existed in the early years of cinema. Griffith successfully deals with the race issues, (even with the use of white actors in the various race roles), extreme masculinity issues, and the above stated femininity issues bluntly, and straight to the point. In a culture dominated by the MASTER NARRATIVE of patriarchal while heterosexual males (well, even still today), D.W. tries his best to put it into perspective. And does a pretty good job of it.

13 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Is this the best silent movie ever? Chaves7777
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A very beautiful -and sad- story FranLovesBetteD
Evil Eye: The Worst Villian ever nicecity
The first silent film I have ever watched! leedunlop82

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