A ‘featurette’ by Griffith

Enoch Arden
R: D. W. Griffith. K: Billy Bitzer. D: Wilfred Lucas, Linda Arvidson, Florence La Badie, Robert Harron, Frank Grandon. P: Biograph. USA 1911
Print: Library of Congress

“The first US ‘feature film’ was released when the two parts of D. W. Griffith’s Enoch Arden were screened together, running twice the normal length of films at the time. The two parts became a two-reel featurette shown in its entirety – an industry first.”

“This two-part ‘featurette’ by Griffith has a lot in common with his earlier film The Unchanging Sea. First of all, it’s based on a poem of the same name, in this case by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who was read by all educated people at school at the time. Secondly, it follows the story of a couple, separated when the husband goes to sea to seek his fortune, and shows their seaside romance as well as images of the abandoned wife staring out to sea forlornly while she waits for her husband’s return. Unlike that story, however, it does not end in reconciliation, but rather in tragedy, as the wife finally relents and marries her other suitor (a remarkably persistent fellow, who continues to court her as her children grow from babies to adulthood). It’s obvious that Griffith was becoming interested in more complex storylines and storytelling techniques: we see closeups, and there’s a pretty impressive ship, either built or hired for the shoot.”
Century Film Project