The Two Brothers
R: David W. Griffith. B: Eleanor Hicks. K: G.W. Bitzer, Arthur Marvin. D: Arthur V. Johnson, Dell Henderson, Kate Bruce, Marion Leonard, Charles West, Henry B. Walthall, W. Chrystie Miller. P: Biograph Company. USA 1910
Print: EYE Filmmuseum
As It Is in Life
R: David W. Griffith. B: Stanner E.V. Taylor. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: George Nichols, Gladys Egan, Mary Pickford, Kate Bruce, Charles West. P: American Biograph. USA 1910
“D. W. Griffith took the core of his Biograph team to southern California in late January 1910, almost as a reward for their performance in a grueling schedule in 1909. They had completed 143 short films (78 in the first six months of the year), nearly 3 per week on average. But it was more opportunity than reward. California provided almost limitless scenic possibilities in an outdoor environment far more hospitable for motion picture work than New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in the winter months. And although Biograph had secured the rental of an indoor stage in Los Angeles that was at least twice the size of what they had available to them at the New York studio, most of the thirty or so films completed during the three months they would spend in California were shot entirely outdoors.
Among these outdoor films was As It Is in Life, made during the fourth week of shooting in California. Though a minor Biograph film, As It Is in Life is interesting in several ways, particularly its structure and the acting styles. Essentially the film consists of three parts, an introduction to the primary characters and their motivations, a central section where most of the action and all of the ‘drama’ takes place, and the dénouement: a resolution that takes tragedy and gives it a positive conclusion — a ‘happy ending’ that was hardly typical of the Biograph product of the period.
The final sequence of the film (…) may seem a bit forced, but a tidy and, yes, hasty conclusion was a product of the hard reality of the single-reel, 1000 foot maximum length imposed by the industry — the producers, distributors and exhibitors — in the years preceding the rise of the multiple reel and ‘feature’-length motion picture. The alternative would have been to end the film with tragedy. Biograph was already well-known for such endings, and this may have been no more than an effort by Griffith to do what was, perversely, the unexpected for a Biograph product of 1910.”
THE PICKFORD BIOGRAPHS: “AS IT IS IN LIFE” (with a nod to Gladys Egan)
The House with Closed Shutters
R: D.W. Griffith. B: Emmett C. Hall. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Henry B. Walthall, Grace Henderson, Dorothy West, Joseph Graybill, Charles West. P: American Biograph. USA 1910
“Griffith’s eye for iconic imagery that heightens the emotive intensity of his film making is apparent in The House with Closed Shutters. The strongest example of this is the relationship between the confederate flag and the heroic sister. The film opens with the emblematic image of the confederate flag being sewed by the soldier’s sister (…). She is next seen with the flag when she has taken the place of her brother on the battlefield, where she recklessly carries it beyond the soldiers in front of her and is shot down by the opposing forces.
Griffith’s perceived racism is well documented, but in this instance Griffith must be commended for allowing his female protagonist possess the valour and bravery that the male protagonist lacks. Given that in the US, women would not be permitted to join the military in roles other than nurses until 1940 when the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was formed and that they would have to wait until 1978 to serve alongside their fellow male troops; Griffith deserves credit for making this bold move.
The film’s most impressive scenes involve the complex choreography of the battle scenes. Griffith portrays a carnage filled battlefield with great success; although smoke covers up much of the immediate image as the Confederate forces fire at their enemy, the image of the Yankees emerging from the smoke to viciously overrun their opposing forces is one of early cinema’s most iconic images.”
Film ab Initio
A Child of the Ghetto
R: David W. Griffith. B: Stanner E.V. Taylor, K: G.W. Bitzer / Arthur Marvin. D: Dorothy West, Kate Bruce, Dell Henderson, Charles West, Henry B. Walthall.
P: American Biograph. USA 1910
“A Child of the Ghetto was made at the height of Griffith’s career at Biograph, a period when he was perfecting the storytelling power of the film medium. Like Romance of a Jewess, this is a story of Lower East Side life, and Griffith again captures in near-documentary style the hustle and bustle of Rivington Street. Griffith’s development of editing techniques since 1908 is evident; although both films are about the same length, A Child of the Ghetto has forty-six shots while Romance of a Jewess has only thriteen!
The movement from city slums to pastoral country differentiates A Child of the Ghetto from most other American Jewish films of this period. The city is seen as a place of hardship, exploitation, and false accusation, while the country offers health, trust, beauty, and love. Griffith seems to indicate that immigrant Jews would improve their lives by moving out of the ghetto, a possibility entertained by few other films. A Child of the Ghetto is also one of the earliest films to treat an interfaith romance unproblematically.”
The National Center for Jewish Film
>>> Romance of a Jewess on this site: Griffith 1908