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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>
Lillian Gish first suggested D.W. Griffith film the enormously popular play "The Two Orphans," which had been translated into 40 languages, thinking of her sister Dorothy Gish in the role of Henriette. Interestingly, Griffith cast Dorothy as Louise, the passive blind victim, when it was Lillian who was best known for playing helpless heroines. Most who knew her would attest that Dorothy was the more vivacious and strong willed of the two sisters. Lillian had written of her sister in 1927 "She is laughter, even on the cloudy days of life; nothing bothers her or saddens her or concerns her lastingly." See more »
Early in the Paris scenes there are two bare-chested revolutionaries. One has visible tan lines showing that he had worn a 20s lifeguard-style two-strap bathing suit. See more »
D.W. Griffith loved epic stories full of dangerous situations and damsels in distress. With the beautiful and talented Gish sisters, he got two damsels for the price of one. "Orphans of the Storm" is probably the most beautiful of all Griffith features. The lavish detailing of the sets is much better than "Intolerance" or "Broken Blossoms" and the costumes are magnificent. By this time in Griffith's career, his direction was already beginning to become stale and his plots too old-fashioned, but somehow he makes "Orphans" work to his advantage.
Lillian Gish is Henriette Girard and her sister Dorothy plays her "Sister" Louise. The amazing Joseph Schildkraut plays de Vaudrey, a nobleman who truly is noble. The "storm" in the title refers to the French Revolution, which is the background this story of family and romantic love plays itself upon.
As usual, Lillian Gish is wonderful in her role as the devoted sister Henriette; but it is Dorothy Gish as blind sister Louise who is truly the star of the film. Her performance drips with the pathos, pain, and longing that most people associate with her older sister. Schildkraut shines in this, his first Hollywood film role.
The frequent ridiculous scenes (Danton running to save Henriette from the executioner's blade?) and length of the film will turn most modern viewers off; but those who have a love of history, epic spectacle, and the timeless beauty of the Gish sisters will enjoy "Orphans of the Storm".
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