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The Cricket on the Hearth (1909)

After three years at sea, Edward returns home to find his sweetheart forced into an engagement with a much older man.

Director:

D.W. Griffith

Writers:

Charles Dickens (short story), Frank E. Woods
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Cast

Credited cast:
Owen Moore ... Edward Plummer
Violet Mersereau ... May Fielding
Linda Arvidson ... Sister Dorothy
Dorothy West ... Sister Bertha (unconfirmed)
David Miles ... Caleb Plummer
George Nichols ... Mr. Fielding
Anita Hendrie Anita Hendrie ... Mrs. Fielding
Herbert Prior ... John Peerybingle
Mack Sennett ... Merry Andrew
Harry Solter Harry Solter ... Tackleton
John R. Cumpson ... Innkeeper
Arthur V. Johnson ... The Minister
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Dorothy Bernard Dorothy Bernard
Charles Inslee
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Storyline

Because of poverty Edward Plummer leaves his family and his sweetheart May and goes to sea. While he is away, his sister Dot marries John Peerybingle. Mrs. Fielding, the mother of May, is deep in debt, and when Old Tackleton wants to marry her daughter she agrees, despite May's protest. Three years later Edward returns. At the King George Inn he learns that May is betrothed to Old Tackleton, which leaves him in deep despair. He decides to figure out if May really loves Tackleton. From a strolling actor he buys a false beard, a wig and some clothes. Disguised as an old man he visits his sister Dot, for whom he reveals his true identity. John Peerybingle realizes that it's just a disguise, but thinks the man behind it is his wife's secret lover, and plans to leave her. Meanwhile Dot tells Edward that May is going to marry Tackleton the same day, although she doesn't want to. Edward goes to May, carries her off, and marries her quickly. Tackleton gets furious at first, but is soon ... Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 May 1909 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Каминный сверчок See more »

Filming Locations:

Fort Lee, New Jersey, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Biograph Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Connections

Version of The Cricket on the Hearth (1914) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"The cricket hushed"
10 March 2011 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

Pioneer director DW Griffith always cited Charles Dickens as one of his greatest influences. This may seem odd for a filmmaker, but one must remember that most of Griffith's predecessors in his own field came into the medium as technicians, not as storytellers. Besides, books and movies are not so different. Both have the power to shift our focus in time and space from one paragraph, or one cut, to the next. Books, like movies, can immerse us in a wealth of detail or pare an experience down to its bare essentials. It is these effects that Griffith admired in his literary forebears.

The Cricket on the Hearth was Griffith's only stab at a Dickens work. The original novella is not very well-known today, although it was a massive hit when published, outselling even A Christmas Carol. It was probably still remembered as a key Dickens text in 1909. Griffith makes some alterations to the structure of the story, giving us a prelude in which we see the sailor Edward before he goes to sea, and witness him adopting the old man disguise upon his return. In the novel the disguised Edward is already in place, and the reader does not know his identity. However it is more like Griffith to focus on the story's romance and to book end it appropriately.

But it is in formal style, not content the Griffith borrows from the author. Just as Dickens will use evocative language to give detailed descriptions of place and character, selecting words that have the right feel to them as well as literal meaning, so Griffith fills his images with visual patterns to conjure up certain impressions. Many of the early scenes emphasise the squalor from which the characters originate with simple but effective use of space. In the opening shot a sloping ceiling cuts off almost half the frame. In the second shot a fence does the same. Later scenes such as the wedding take place in the serene outdoors.

Looking at the whole thing however you can see why Griffith didn't bother to adapt too many Dickens novels. Despite a handful of title cards making explanations and bridging gaps in the narrative, this short is a little confused and incoherent, and really seems to assume the viewer has a knowledge of the original text. Griffith has tried to make it more cinematic by playing down the significance of the titular cricket and making the love story the central arc, but the end result is far from smooth. Griffith was a lot stronger when coming up with his own stories, entirely conceived and constructed for the screen.


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