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The first half of the film portrays the struggle of the under-armed, under-manned colonists against the British Redcoats at Lexington, Bunker Hill and Valley Forge. Other landmarks of the American Revolution shown include the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's midnight ride and Patrick Henry's (played by Frank McGlyyn Jr. and not played by his father Frank McGlynn Sr) inflammatory speeches to the VIrginia House of Burgesses. The second half dwells on the bloody Indian War of Mohawk Valley. THe parts are tied together by the troubled romance between a young patriot, Nathan Holden (Neal Hamilton)and Nancy Montague (Carol Dempster), the daughter of a Tory Judge. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Appropriately subtitled "Love and Sacrifice", director D.W. Griffith's fictionalized account of revolutionary "America" should have been more successful, given the obvious costly effort in evidence; it is weighted down by lack of imagination, and a significantly unsuitable performance from the leading actress. Still, it offers many worthwhile scenes; and, some legendary scenes are brought beautifully to life. Griffith gentlemanly reveals prejudices early, explaining, "The story of the sacrifice made for freedom in the American Revolution is that of a civil war between two groups of English people; one group, the Americans, being merely Englishmen who settled on the American Continent."
Moreover, Griffith asserts, "The government which Canada and Australia now enjoy was absolutely denied to America through the stubborn and false ideals of the autocratic powers guiding the hand of King George the Third." During the running time, Griffith uses Royalist Walter Butler to represent the evil on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Were it not for Mr. Butler, the Revolution might have been settled amicability! Not as despicable a thesis as presented Griffith's similarly plotted Civil War epic, but neither is "America" as excitingly presented as "The Birth of a Nation".
And, try as they might, Neil Hamilton (as Nathan Holden) and Carol Dempster (as Nancy Montague) are not Robert Harron and Lillian Gish in "Hearts of the World".
Griffith's epics are much more convincing with when characterizations and relationships are well presented. Mr. Hamilton, as the poor young New Englander, has no rapport with Ms. Dempster. And, as the Virginia belle, Dempster is wrongly directed. Compare Dempster/Hamilton with Gish/Harron in "Hearts of the World". Or, even better, with Gish/Harron in "A Romance of Happy Valley". The later film shows how well Ms. Gish and Mr. Harron played the "bedroom window" scene which Griffith re-visits in "America". Hamilton, a promising actor, had a great career highlight, later, as "Commissioner Gordon" of "Batman" in the 1960s; but, ribald Lionel Barrymore (as Butler) steals the acting honors. Griffith used his stars better in the forthcoming "Isn't Life Wonderful?"
****** America (2/21/24) D.W. Griffith ~ Neil Hamilton, Carol Dempster, Lionel Barrymore
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