Way Down East

881. WAY DOWN EAST (1920-USA). Produced, directed and co-written by D.W. Griffith. With LILLIAN GISH, RICHARD BARTHELMESS, LOWELL SHERMAN, CREIGHTON HALE. “Since the beginning of time, man has been polygamousÑeven the Saints of biblical history. But today, a better ideal is growing, an ideal of one man for one woman. Today, woman brought up from childhood to expect one constant mate possibly suffers more than at any point in the history of mankind, because not yet has the man-animal reached this high standardÑexcept perhaps in theory.”
Young and beautiful Anna Moore from Greenville visits the big city and is seduced by wicked Lennox Sanderson. Tricked into a false marriage, Anna soon finds herself “expecting” and left alone by Lennox who is truly a grade A, all-American bastard! Learning she was never really married, Anna goes to another town to have her baby, who soon dies. Arriving at the home of Squire Bartlett, Anna goes to work as a maid, finding to her horror that the nearby estate is owned by none other than Lennox Sanderson! Exercising colossal gall, Lennox tells her to leave the Bartlett’s to save herself embarrassment, but young and handsome David Bartlett has a thing or two to say about that. The perfect silent melodrama in every way; you know at all times who to cheer and who to hiss. Both a cinematic and box office success (a rarity for Griffith movies), “Way Down East” (which refers to rural Maine and Northern New England) came close to “Birth of A Nation” in gross receipts. The climax of the story, still thrilling to watch 60 years after its filming, takes place on a frozen river. Anna, running from her shame, has fainted on a cake of ice, which is rushing downstream toward the waterfall as the river ice breaks up. Will David Bartlett, who loves her, reach her before she is dashed to pieces on the rocks below? You may think you know the answer, but Griffith certainly didn’t! A miscalculation with a charge of dynamite while filming the sequence sent him to a New York hospital, leaving ELMER CLIFTON to finish directing the rescue for him. An American classic as well as a fine story of love and heartbreak. Expect no fancy camera work, twists of plot nor any psychological inner meanings. D. W. starts by sub-titling the story “A Simple Story of Plain People”. You can expect the genius of Griffith at his best. Silent film with music score, correct projection speed. 192 minutes. D.W. Griffith