Griffith’s ‘Gibson Goddess’

The Gibson Goddess
R: David W. Griffith. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Marion Leonard, James Kirkwood, William A. Quirk (Billy Quirk), J. Waltham, Arthur Johnson, Anthony O’Sullivan, Mack Sennett, Frank Evans, Mary Pickford. P: Biograph Company. USA 1909

D.W. Griffith is certainly not a name associated with comedy, but he did direct a few of them early in his career {including his debut, Those Awful Hats (1909)}, before briefly returning to the genre with The Battle of the Sexes (1928). This comedy short from 1909 – The Gibson Goddess – might also be considered a ‘battle of the sexes.’ (…) The Gibson Goddess is more of a ‘sophisticated’ comedy, if you will, concerned primarily with human behaviour and social stereotypes. Leonard‘s ‘Gibson Goddess’ is a perfectly respectable and innocent woman, but also resourceful when required to be. Her male admirers are shamelessly superficial, abandoning one woman to bestow their affection upon a prettier other, and they bicker pettily among themselves as to who shall have claim over each lady. If the film wasn’t so lighthearted, the men’s ‘stalker’ antics might have seemed rather disturbing, though the actors dilute any worries by behaving, for the most part, as flamboyantly as possible.”
Short Cuts

A “Gibson Goddess” is a woman of ideal beauty as illustrated for Griffith’s era by the American illustrator and cartoonist Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944), who “was best known for his creation of the Gibson Girl, an iconic representation of the beautiful and independent Euro-American woman at the turn of the 20th century.” (Wikipedia)

646-Gibson Girl
Charles Dana Gibson: Gibson Girl, 1898 (source: Wikipedia)

“Gibson’s curvaceous image of desire is evoked by Griffith only as a split-reel joke, and his casting of Marion Leonard also hints that Gibson’s ideal wasn’t his. The ‘Gibson Girl’ may have been on her way out of fashion by 1909 but that’s partly Griffith’s own doing, to the extent that his films were becoming the most popular mass images of their day, replacing Gibson’s sexualized but static images of desire with Griffith’s virginal but dynamic charmers.”
Scott Simmon: The Films of D. W. Griffith. CUP Archive 1993, p. 73

>>> Griffith 1909