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Henry B. Walthall,
Henriette and Louise, a foundling, are raised together as sisters. When Louise goes blind, Henriette swears to take care of her forever. They go to Paris to see if Louise's blindness can be cured, but are separated when an aristocrat lusts after Henriette and abducts her. Only Chevalier de Vaudrey is kind to her, and they fall in love. The French Revolution replaces the corrupt Aristocracy with the equally corrupt Robespierre. De Vaudrey, who has always been good to peasants, is condemned to death for being an aristocrat, and Henriette for harboring him. Will revolutionary hero Danton, the only voice for mercy in the new regime, be able to save them from the guillotine?Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
Lillian Gish first suggested D.W. Griffith film the enormously popular play "The Two Orphans," which had been translated into 40 languages, thinking of her sister Dorothy Gish in the role of Henriette. Interestingly, Griffith cast Dorothy as Louise, the passive blind victim, when it was Lillian who was best known for playing helpless heroines. Most who knew her would attest that Dorothy was the more vivacious and strong willed of the two sisters. Lillian had written of her sister in 1927 "She is laughter, even on the cloudy days of life; nothing bothers her or saddens her or concerns her lastingly." See more »
As Danton with the People's Court pardons races to the guillotine execution site, the dusty street beneath the charging feet of his group's horses shows the tire tracks of the camera car preceding them. See more »
Adolphe D'Ennery's novel was one of those countless melodramatic maudlin stories which were thriving in France of the 19th century. DW Griffith decided to transpose the action just before and after French revolution.The novel was rather reactionary and its historical background was thin and vague.
But Griffith's vision of the French Revolution is naive,to put it mildly.He was not apparently aware that the 1789 events were mainly a bourgeois move,and the poor were only a tool.The dichotomy Good Danton/Wicked Robespierre should make people who are looking for a sort of historical accuracy have a look at Wajda"s "Danton"(with G.Depardieu,in the eighties).
Forget history and you have a two-hour and a half silent movie with never a dull moment.Griffith is a wonderful storyteller,who had a great respect for his audience.Some sequences are still impressive today:the aristocratic orgy,when the Poor are starving at the gates of the palace is far from D'Ennery's timid depiction of the scene in the book;Lillian Gish,a wonderful actress who 'd been part of the cinema till the eighties,is so powerful in her part of the abducted maiden Henriette we can almost hear her when she screams out of despair:"is there a man of honor among you?Louise and the shrew who got her under her thumb begging in front of the cathedral as the snow is falling is a splendid picture,recalling a painter's work;even if Danton's coming to the rescue of a soon-to-be guillotined Henriette is thoroughly implausible,we cannot help but admire the director's maestria.
Few silent movies have stood the test of time as well as this one.
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