Susie, a plain young country girl, secretly loves a neighbor boy, William. She believes in him and sacrifices much of her own happiness to promote his own ambitions, all without his ...
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Lydia Yeamans Titus,
Susie, a plain young country girl, secretly loves a neighbor boy, William. She believes in him and sacrifices much of her own happiness to promote his own ambitions, all without his knowledge. Eventually he rises to a position of success and sophistication, and Susie realizes that she has through her own efforts raised him to a level where he is inaccessible to her. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
This is a gem among the smaller productions from D.W. Griffith's oeuvre. It's similar to "A Romance of Happy Valley", also a coming-of-age romance set in the countryside, which Griffith made with the same costars and released earlier in 1919. Griffith often turned to rural romance and such sentimental melodramas for his films. In this one, Lillian Gish is again self-sacrificing, pitiful and supposedly plain in appearance, while Robert Harron goes to the city to make good--this time to college to become his hometown's preacher. Gish and Harron had these roles down pat, and their translations from awkward teenagers to adulthood is especially impressive here, accomplished with costume changes and a mustache for Harron, but mostly just by their convincing performances. The film doesn't specifically address how much time the narrative covers, but it seems to be years, so there is considerable character development. In addition to Gish and Harron, Clarine Seymour is good in the part of a flapper, who steals Harron away from Gish.
Thanks to the quality Image Entertainment / Film Preservation Associates release, G.W. Bitzer's lovely photography is now more apparent. One slight criticism here that I have is the odd use of soft focus in a few places, such as in a couple long shots and for one close-up of Harron, which blur his image; otherwise, it's a fine technique, which Bitzer and camera operator Karl Brown had learned from Hendrik Sartov in making "Broken Blossoms", another Griffith-Gish film made and released earlier in 1919 (clearly, 1919 was a great year for this team artistically). Similarly, the film's pace and editing are commendable, including interloping the various paths of the characters and one particularly good match cut where Gish walks from her field cut to her walking in her house. Yet, some of the editing appears jumpy in places, although some of that could be due to missing frames, and there's a brief continuity error during the shot where Seymour is trying to get inside her house during a rainstorm--the door is locked, yet we briefly see her push the door open. Such slight sloppiness in film-making doesn't distract much, though. Title cards are a bit too much here, in frequency and storytelling (e.g. why call the characters idiots?), something that's a problem in other Griffith films, too. To finish my listing on the technical aspects of "True Heart Susie", it also features a well-constructed rainstorm, which seems to be an early and good example of one created artificially, with heavy rain, lightning effects and good continuity.
"True Heart Susie" is one of Griffith's better films; it treads familiar territory, but is better constructed and developed narratively and technically. Its real genius, however, is the acting, which makes this one especially sentimentally affecting. Gish is exceptionally brilliant; it seems that any film she's in will be worth watching at least just for her part.
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