Friday, July 17, 2009

This Weekend On Turner Classic Movies Sunday Silents: Broken Blossoms

I've theoretically left silent movies behind but I wanted to mention that TCM is showing my choice for the best movie of 1919, D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms, on Monday, July 20, 2009, at 12:15 a.m. (i.e., Sunday night).

Like most of Griffith's work, the portrayals of race—in this case, a Chinese immigrant in London played by Richard Barthelmess—may make it a difficult movie for a modern audience. Plus, unlike the genres of comedy, horror or action, silent dramas generally don't hold up that well. But if you're approaching the work of D.W. Griffith for the first time, this might be the route to take.

In reviewing Broken Blossoms for his series on great movies, Roger Ebert noted that it was "perhaps the first interracial love story in the movies" and that it directly influenced Federico Fellini's classic, La Strada. He also said of its star, Lillian Gish, "her face is the first I think of among the silent actresses, just as Chaplin and Keaton stand side by side among the men." (He also passed along this anecdote from the filming of The Whales of August, a 1987 film co-starring Gish and screen legend Bette Davis: "One day after finishing a shot, [director Lindsay Anderson] said, 'Miss Gish, you have just given me the most marvelous closeup!' 'She should,' Bette Davis observed dryly. 'She invented them.'")

From TCM's website:

12:15 AM Broken Blossoms (1919)
In this silent film, an Asian man in London falls in love with an abused child. Cast: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp. Dir: D.W. Griffith. BW-89 mins, TV-PG

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