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In the 17th century Massachusetts, a married women, whose husband is missing, has a child with the local pastor. The puritanical residents of her town condemn her to carry the Scarlet Letter of shame. Then the husband shows up.
In Puritan Boston, seamstress Hester Prynne is punished for playing on the Sabbath day; but kindly minister Arthur Dimmesdale takes pity on her. The two fall in love, but their relationship cannot be: Hester is already married to Roger Prynne, a physician who has been missing seven years. Dimmesdale has to go away to England; when he returns, he finds Hester pregnant with their child, and the focus of the town's censure. In a humiliating public ceremony, she is forced to don the scarlet letter A - for adultery - and wear it the rest of her life. Dimmesdale is encouraged by the church fathers to demand of Hester the person with whom she sinned. Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
Should be required viewing in high schools along with the novel
Victor Sjöström's The Scarlet Letter is a masterpiece. It should be put on DVD for all to enjoy, even if parts of the film have to be supplemented with 16mm dupes. TCM hasn't shown it in years, yet they show The Wind several times every year. It makes no sense. The Scarlet Letter is even better than The Wind. It should be shown in high school classes along with the required reading of the classic novel by Nathanial Hawthorne. It makes my head spin to think of how many thousands of children would fall in love with silent film if they were only exposed to this classic. I hate to think of them being exposed to that horrific Demi Moore version instead.
Lillian Gish is radiantly beautiful as the demure but sensual Hester Prynne. Lars Hanson makes an exceptionally wonderful minister Dimmesdale, fighting his romantic feelings for the lovely Hester. Henry B. Walthall makes a very believable and threatening Roger Prynne. Karl Dane adds some wonderful comic relief as Master Giles. The M-G-M production values here are exceptional and the cinematography by Henrik Sartov glows. I love the tracking shots of Hester and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale walking together in the woods, and the lovely shot of their reflections in the lake as they confess their love for one another. Poetry on screen. The musical score for the film is quite beautiful, commissioned by TCM in 2000. The only parts that got on my nerves were the harpsichord sections. The flute, piano and violin parts were the best.
Your silent film viewing is not complete without seeing this classic. It's Lillian Gish's best film. Don't miss it.
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