Fun Size Review: Judith of Bethulia (1914)

D.W. Griffith gets biblical (or not, depending on whether you accept the apocrypha) with the story of an Assyrian invasion of Israel and the smokin’ hot widow who decides the best path to victory is to make the enemy general lose his head, literally. Blanche Sweet makes a powerful impression as the titular heroine but the story is Victorianized to minimize her awesomeness. The enemy general is cute and gives her gifts, you see. Sure, he’s looting and pillaging and enslaving but, but, stuff! It seems that sword-wielding patriots still must think with their ovaries. Sigh.

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Silent Movie Myth: “The Birth of a Nation” was the first feature and the first film shown at the White House

There are some silent movie myths that are so common that they are printed without question by major publications and repeated on national radio and television shows. With the 100 year anniversary of The Birth of a Nation‘s 1915 premiere back in February, silent movie fans received more than our share of this nonsense.
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Judith of Bethulia (1914) A Silent Film Review

Villainy is afoot in ancient Israel, the Assyrians have laid siege to a little mountain town. All seems to be lost. But the Assyrians didn’t count on a young widow named Judith (Blanche Sweet), who wields a mean saber. Will the charms of the enemy general (Henry B. Walthall) derail her plans? Or will our Assyrian lose his head over the comely widow? This is an early feature film and the start of director D.W. Griffith’s big, Big, BIG! period.
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The Taming of the Shrew (1908) A Silent Film Review

Four months into his career as a director, D.W. Griffith took on William Shakespeare. In one reel. Yes, that is about ten minutes. The short stars the legendary Florence Lawrence as the titular hellion and Arthur V. Johnson is her suitor. But did you know that Mack Sennett was also on hand in a supporting role? I wonder what will come of that…

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Fun Size Review: The Hessian Renegades (1909)

hessian-renegades1776! Spies! Hessian aggression! And all in a tidy, one-reel package. Mary Pickford plays a Colonial miss who helps get a message past some very determined redcoats after her brother (a messenger/spy) is killed. Not a masterpiece from director D.W. Griffith (who was in his second year on the job) but fast and amusing. Plus, we get to see Pickford disguise herself as an enemy soldier. That’s worth something, right?

If it were a dessert it would be:

(via Munchkin Munchies)
(via Munchkin Munchies)

Disguise cookies. Little trifles but amusing and ideal for budding spies.

You can read my full-length review here.


Fun Size Review: The New York Hat (1912)


It’s the story of an impoverished teen, a kindly minister, gossipy neighbors and a $10 hat. Griffith spins an alluring confection of small town America that both satirizes and celebrates the culture. Lionel Barrymore and Mary Pickford are excellent as the innocent pair who find themselves the subject of slander.

If it were a dessert it would be:


Strawberry Cheesecake Bites. Short, sweet, classic.

Read my full-length review here.

Fun Size Review: Friends (1912)


Henry B. Walthall is a slick miner. Mary Pickford is the local lady of the evening. Lionel Barrymore is Henry’s rootin’-tootin’ pal. Both guys like Mary but who will win the day? This is a short subject from D.W. Griffith extolling the virtues of male friendship. Some very fine acting from Mary.

If it were a dessert it would be:


Gold Rush Cake. There’s gold in them thar hills.

Read my full-length review here.

The Sunbeam (1912) A Silent Film Review

Director D.W. Griffith’s modern reputation rests on his epics but I don’t think that is the right call. The charming short films that he made for the Biograph company are the Griffith movies that I keep coming back to. (Well, the non-squicky ones, anyway.) The amount of emotion and story he was able to pack into those ten to twenty minute morsels is nothing short of miraculous.
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Fun Size Review: Way Down East (1920)

Director D.W. Griffith took a creaky melodrama and… kept it creaky! Lillian Gish is used and tossed aside by a rich creep. She stumbles onto Richard Barthelmess’s farm, where the whole family embraces her with open arms. Then said rich creep shows up. Works surprisingly well thanks to great work from Gish and Barthelmess, as well as one of Griffth’s very best Races to the Rescue™… On  Ice! (On tour this winter!)

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The New York Hat (1912) A Silent Film Review

Pastor Lionel Barrymore receives a strange mission from a parishioner (the wife of the town miser) who has recently passed away: He is to take the money she has left and buy her daughter, Mary Pickford, little luxuries that she has been denied. The Pastor starts by buying Mary a pricey hat from New York. Little does he know that this kindness will start a frenzy of gossip.

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Fun Size Review: The White Rose (1923)

D.W. Griffith tried to break his slump by casting Mae Marsh and scrumptious Welsh heartthrob Ivor Novello in this tale of single motherhood and spiritual crisis. Minister-to-be Novello seduces and abandons orphan flapper Marsh, who must face the cruel world, etc. etc. Griffith has done all this before (and better) but his leads try their hardest and almost manage to put it over. Almost. A mixed bag.


How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Marsh and her baby wander into Novello’s neck of the woods, where he promptly realizes the error of his ways and he makes an honest woman of our heroine on her sickbed. Happy endings for all.

If it were a dessert it would be:

Cheesecake rice pudding. Variation on a very old theme. Tasty enough but hardly earth-shattering.

Read my full-length review here.

Availability: Released on DVD.

The Idol Dancer (1920) A Silent Film Review

White Almond Flower (Clarine Seymour) is a flapper-ish island girl who just can’t choose between a sickly missionary (Creighton Hale) and an atheist beach bum (Richard Barthelmess). Will WAF be “civilized” or will she be free to continue her moonlight idolatry? D.W. Griffith directs this tale of religion, the nature of civilization and shimmy-shimmy shakes.
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Way Down East (1920) A Silent Film Review

Director D.W. Griffith dives back into country melodrama with this adaptation of a hoary stage smash. Lillian Gish plays Anna, a country girl seduced and abandoned by a rich cad. The resulting baby dies and Anna is alone in the world. She meets the kindly Bartlett family and it seems that her life is taking a turn for the better… that is until her past is exposed.

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The White Rose (1923) A Silent Film Review

Child neglect, single moms, personal crisis… Just another day D.W. Griffith-land. Mae Marsh is Teazie, a young orphan who flirts as way to get much-needed attention. Ivor Novello is Joseph, a freshly ordained minister who mistakes her flirtations for an immoral character. What follows can best be described as Way Down East meets The Scarlet Letter.

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