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Karl, a German diplomat in Paris, discovers that his fiancee, Diane, has been cheating on him. He tells her that he would rather marry a "girl of the streets" than her. Outraged, Diane ... See full summary »
Gum-chewing frizzy-haired gold-digger Marie Skinner cooks up a scheme with her lover Babe Winsor, a jazz hound, to fleece a portly, middle-aged real estate tycoon, William Judson. Marie ... See full summary »
Geoffrey, a young and impoverished writer, is desperately in love with Mavis, who lives at his boardinghouse and is also pursuing a writing career. Unable to marry her because of his ... See full summary »
A family of Polish refugees tries to survive in post-World War I Germany. For a while it seems that they are making it, but soon the economic and political deterioration in the country begins to take their toll.
The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.
I hesitated for some time before seeing "The Struggle" because it was considered by most critics to be a pathetic boring mess done by a broken man. I knew it was Griffith's final film and I didn't want to see this great master produce a terrible film at the end of his career. When I finally did view it I found that a film that is full of passion, new ideas and bold innovative strokes.
There are several innovations in the use of sound. At the time actors were careful to talk one after the other because it was thought that people talking at the same time would be too confusing for the audience. Griffith used overlapping dialog and a party scene with multiple background sounds of music and talking as well as dialog. This sounded far more natural. Also at this time actors were being told to use artificial elocution and diction when speaking on screen. They usually sounded either foreign or very upper crust. Griffith had his actors use natural accents. Hal Skelly and Zita Johnson sound like normal people who talk fast use slang and sometimes slur their words.
The most impressive innovation was in Griffith's development of the plot. The story of a man who sinks into alcoholism could and would normally be treated as a moral lesson against the evils of drink. In Griffith's hands it is personal tragedy that has to do with the strength's and weakness of the individuals involved. Jimmy becomes an alcoholic because of his own personality traits and whatever redemption he achieves is due to the strength of his love for his wife and his daughter. There is no preaching here. Griffith had done a similar film called "Isn't Life Wonderful" in Germany which influenced German filmmakers particularly Pabst in his "Joyless Street." "Joyless Street" is innovative in it's own right but it is clear where its inspiration comes from when whole sections of it are lifted from "Isn't Life Wonderful".
"The Struggle" was a financial failure. Without enough personal funds and without the confidence of any backers, Griffith would never make another film. He had lost touch with his audience. Caught in the middle of the Great Depression, American audiences wanted a moral lesson so they could fix blame, or pure escapism. The last thing they wanted was a complex personal drama to remind them of their own complex personal problems. It would be a long time before films like this would be made in America. But although Griffith had lost his audience, enough creative artists must have seen and been influenced by this film, because starting with films like Citizen Kane, we began to see films about difficult problems treated as stories that were personal to the characters involved and not as moral lessons.
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