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Henriette and Louise, a foundling, are raised together as sisters. When Louise goes blind, Henriette swears to take care of her forever. They go to Paris to see if Louise's blindness can be cured, but are separated when an aristocrat lusts after Henriette and abducts her. Only Chevalier de Vaudrey is kind to her, and they fall in love. The French Revolution replaces the corrupt Aristocracy with the equally corrupt Robespierre. De Vaudrey, who has always been good to peasants, is condemned to death for being an aristocrat, and Henriette for harboring him. Will revolutionary hero Danton, the only voice for mercy in the new regime, be able to save them from the guillotine? Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
Two ORPHANS OF THE STORM caused by the French Revolution desperately search for each other in the violent chaos of Paris.
History's sweeping drama comes alive in this powerful epic film from legendary silent movie genius D. W. Griffith. Although much happens on a broad canvas, the director never loses sight of the intimate details of the heroines' pitiful plight. In denouncing tyranny, Griffith always manages to keep the viewer engrossed in how the State's insidious evil affects the individual.
Much of the film's success is due to the remarkable acting of the Gish Sisters, Lillian & Dorothy. Acclaimed for her comedic talents, Dorothy here gives an almost completely serious performance, portraying a blind girl cruelly separated from her beloved sister and forced to beg in the streets. Lillian, her classic face mirroring a myriad of emotions, plays the sibling persecuted by both lecherous aristocrats and rapacious revolutionaries. The scene in which Lillian, in an upper chamber, hears Dorothy singing in the alley below but is unable to reach her, is almost unbearable in its emotional intensity.
A young Joseph Schildkraut plays Lillian's blue-blooded suitor, giving the viewer an intimation of the very fine character actor he would become with the advent of talking pictures. Lucille LaVerne steals more than a few scenes as the filthy harridan who enslaves and terrorizes Dorothy. Frank Puglia makes a poignant mark as Miss LaVerne's pathetic, downtrodden son. Comic actor Creighton Hale gives a lively performance in a small role as a mischievous, periwiged servant.
A fascinating aspect of the film is its vivid rendering of two historical characters of great significance in the history of France. Georges Danton was probably not as noble as he is portrayed by Monte Blue, nor was Maximilien Robespierre necessarily as evil as Sidney Herbert depicts him. What is certain is that both men were responsible for the deaths of thousands of individuals during the Reign of Terror. Fittingly, each man had his own rendezvous with Madame Le Guillotine in 1794.
Movie mavens will recognize an unbilled Louis Wolheim as the executioner awaiting Miss Lillian on the scaffold.
Griffith handles the sequences involving surging masses of extras with admirable dexterity. He also freely borrows a few plot elements from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. In fact Miss LaVerne, with scarcely a costume change, would play the role of The Vengeance in MGM's 1935 version of that classic, violent novel.
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