7.8/10
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Way Down East (1920)

A naive country girl is tricked into a sham marriage by a wealthy womanizer, then must rebuild her life despite the taint of having borne a child out of wedlock.

Director:

D.W. Griffith

Writers:

Lottie Blair Parker (from the play by), William A. Brady (play) (as Wm. A. Brady) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Lillian Gish ... Anna Moore
Richard Barthelmess ... David Bartlett
Mrs. David Landau Mrs. David Landau ... Anna Moore's Mother
Lowell Sherman ... Lennox Sanderson
Burr McIntosh ... Squire Bartlett
Josephine Bernard Josephine Bernard ... Mrs. Emma Tremont
Mrs. Morgan Belmont Mrs. Morgan Belmont ... Diana Tremont
Patricia Fruen Patricia Fruen ... Diana's Sister
Florence Short Florence Short ... The Eccentric Aunt
Kate Bruce ... Mrs. Bartlett
Vivia Ogden Vivia Ogden ... Martha Perkins
Porter Strong Porter Strong ... Seth Holcomb
George Neville George Neville ... Constable Rube Whipple
Edgar Nelson ... Hi Holler
Mary Hay Mary Hay ... Kate Brewster - the Squire's Niece
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Storyline

The callous rich, portrayed by Lennox, think only of their own pleasure. Anna is but a poor country girl whom Lennox tricks into a fake wedding. She believes that it is true, but secret, while he has his way with her. When she is pregnant, he leaves her and she must have the baby, named Trust Lennox, on her own. When the baby dies she wanders until she gets a job with Squire Bartlett. David falls for her, but she rejects him due to her past and then Lennox shows up lusting for Kate. Seeing Anna, he tries to get her to leave, but she doesn't, and she tells no one about his past. When Squire Bartlett learns of her past from Martha, the town gossip, he tosses Anna out in a snow storm. But before she goes, she fingers the respected Lennox, as the father of her dead baby and the spoiler of herself. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A simple story for plain people. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Release Date:

3 September 1920 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mädchenlos See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$700,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,500,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

D.W. Griffith Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1931 re-release) | (Alpha Video)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

No cast credits are on the print. Filmgoers were provided with a printed program in which all the key players were identified, in the order of their importance to the story, and this is the order in which they appear here. See more »

Quotes

Maria Poole - Landlady: Everybody is talking about you having no husband - I guess you'll have to leave.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Simple Story Of Plain People
28 September 2004 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

A young woman, after being lured into a false marriage, finds the chance for happiness on a friendly farm WAY DOWN EAST.

David Wark Griffith, the Father of American Cinema, had his last great financial blockbuster with this highly sentimentalized silent melodrama. Always anxious to promote decency & morality with his epic films, Griffith here exposes & castigates male brutality against the weaker female, making this a stark portrayal of Good versus Evil as he follows the fortunes and misfortunes of his long-suffering heroine.

Bird-like & fragile, Lillian Gish takes the brunt of the plot upon her young shoulders. To say that she performs magnificently is only to state the expected. The wealth of emotions stealing across her lovely face give expression to her every thought, as her character struggles to maintain her equilibrium against the onslaughts hurled against her.

Richard Barthelmess portrays the quietly heroic farm lad who becomes paladin for Miss Gish during her tribulations while abiding in his home. His stalwart decency is in strong contrast to the villainy of Lowell Sherman, the rich roué whose misdeeds nearly destroy Lillian.

Griffith's broad canvas allows for detailed portraits by a fine supporting cast: a pharisaical squire (Burr McIntosh), his saintly wife (Kate Bruce), a butterfly-chasing professor (Creighton Hale), a dour landlady (Emily Fitzroy), a lazy, good-natured constable (George Neville), a jolly, oafish farmhand (Edgar Nelson), and a gossiping spinster (Vivia Ogden).

The film climaxes with one of the most famous sequences in all of Silent Cinema: Barthelmess' rescue of Miss Gish as she lies unconscious on an ice floe, speeding towards a tremendous waterfall. Filmed on Long Island in the dead of Winter, the performers were in real peril. These scenes still pack a punch and are worthy testimony to Griffith's genius.

Special mention should be made of the cinematography of G. W. Bitzer, Griffith's invaluable cameraman. His beautiful photography softly illumines both the tender scenes and the bucolic vistas, giving them the quality of aged snapshots in a cherished family album.


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