A Famous Slop

R: David W. Griffith. B: Helen Hunt Jackson (novel). K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Mary Pickford, Henry B. Walthall, Francis J. Grandon. P: Biograph Company. USA 1910

“In 1910, Biograph released what they claimed was the most expensive movie ever made. Filmed in California, it was adapted from one of the biggest bestsellers in American literature. The film starred Mary Pickford, well on her way to becoming the biggest star of them all, and was directed by D.W. Griffith.
Ramona is the story of a young woman from an aristocratic Spanish household and the struggles that she endures when she marries her Native American lover. While Griffith chose to focus on the love story, the original Ramona was something considerably more serious.
The novel had been intended to spark social change. Jackson was inspired by Harriet Beacher Stowe’s abolitionist classic ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. Basically, she appealed to her readers and by introducing likable characters and relatable situations. Instead of dry statistics on the plight of the American Indian, a romance and tragedy blend to reach the hearts of the readers. The plan worked. ‘Ramona’ was a runaway bestseller.
In the end, many of the flaws of the 1910 Ramona are the flaws of its source novel. Even back in the day, Ramona was not without its detractors. Raymond Chandler famously described it as slop. Other critics felt that the novel romanticized a sunny past at the expense of realistically portraying middle and working class Californios.”
Fritzi Kramer

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