Monday, May 28, 2012

Capsule Review: Way Down East (1920)

Way Down East ends with Anna, our consistently abused main character played by the luminous Lillian Gish, floating helplessly on a chunk of ice while heading towards a roaring waterfall and her almost certain doom. The sequence ranks among the best D.W. Griffith ever filmed, with the cross-cutting between Anna's chilly fate and the gallant David (played by Broken Blossoms' Richard Barthelmess) desperately searching for her making for an exciting, unforgettable climax. The rest of the film is fairly standard, though well-executed, melodrama featuring Gish's Anna being tricked into a fake marriage by the dastardly Lennox Sanderson (a slimy Lowell Sherman) and being ostracized and shamed for bearing a fatherless child. It's presented as a condemnation of unfaithful men as well as a tribute to the patience of women, and was based on a popular turn of the century play by William A. Brady. The silent film was later re-made in 1935, featuring Henry Fonda as David and Rochelle Hudson in the Anna role.

No comments: