Lillian Gish’s reputation may have been established in several historic D.W. Griffith pictures, but she usually ended up playing a very talented second fiddle to Griffith’s legend as a film pioneer. Nevertheless, Gish’s genius is most readily apparent in Victor Seastrom’s The Wind (1928), a psychologically-charged character study that hinges on her arsenal of small, telling gestures. This is one of the classic performances of silent cinema, and it came at a time when talkies were on the verge of burying the silents forever.
One could argue that the true protagonist of The Wind is the wind itself, a mournful sandstorm that almost drives Gish’s character insane. She plays Letty Mason, a lonely Virginia woman who travels by train to the Texas ranch of her cousin, Cora (Dorothy Cumming.) While on the train, Letty strikes up a flirtation with Roddy (Montagu Love), a Fort Worth man who implies that he might want to marry her. Later, at the ranch, Cora grows jealous of Letty when she develops a friendship with her husband (Edward Earle.) She accuses Letty of trying to steal him away from her, and kicks her out of the house. Continue reading
The last person to die on New Year’s Eve before the clock strikes twelve is doomed to take the reins of Death’s chariot and work tirelessly collecting fresh souls for the next year. So says the legend that drives The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström. The story, based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, concerns an alcoholic, abusive ne’er-do-well (Sjöström himself) who is shown the error of his ways, and the pure-of-heart Salvation Army sister who believes in his redemption. This extraordinarily rich and innovative silent classic (which inspired Ingmar Bergman to make movies) is a Dickensian ghost story and a deeply moving morality tale, as well as a showcase for groundbreaking special effects. (-Criterion) Continue reading
Only Lillian Gish could have gotten The Scarlet Letter (1926) past the censors of the late ’20s and only she could have made it such an authentic American classic. Ironically, she did it with the help of two Swedes, director Victor Sjöström and leading man Lars Hanson. As she would say in her memoirs, however, “I have always believed that the Scandinavians are closer in feeling to New England Puritans than are present-day Americans.” Continue reading
Beautiful, 24 October 2003
Author: Bruce Karam (Bruce.Karam) from Tucson, Arizona 85710 USA
A beautiful story of love, that reminded me of Greta Garbo’s “Anna Christie”. I loved Vilma Bankee’s voice and accent. I felt that the film was charming in it’s “innocence” and simplicity, while dealing with a very complex issue. I hope that I may someday see it again. Continue reading