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Classic Silent Film: Way Down East

29/11/2018

From Wikipedia

Way Down East is a 1920 American silen tromantic drama film directed by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish. It is one of four film adaptations of the melodramatic 19th century play Way Down East by Lottie Blair Parker. There were two earlier silent versions and one sound version in 1935 starring Henry Fonda

Griffith’s version is particularly remembered for its exciting climax in which Lillian Gish’s character is rescued from doom on an icy river. Some sources, quoting newspaper ads of the time, say a sequence was filmed in an early color process, possibly Technicolor or Prizmacolor

The rich, typified by the handsome man-about-town Lennox (Lowell Sherman), are exceptionally selfish and think only of their own pleasure.

Anna (Lillian Gish) is a poor country girl whom Lennox tricks into a fake wedding. When she becomes pregnant, he leaves her. She has the baby, named Trust Lennox, on her own.

When the baby dies she wanders until she gets a job with Squire Bartlett (Burr McIntosh). David (Richard Barthelmess), Squire Bartlett’s son, falls for her, but she rejects him due to her past. Then Lennox shows up lusting for another local girl, Kate. Seeing Anna, he tries to get her to leave, but she refuses to go, although she promises to say nothing about his past.

Finally, Squire Bartlett learns of Anna’s past from Martha, the town gossip. In his anger, he tosses Anna out into a snow storm. Before she goes, she fingers the respected Lennox as her despoiler and the father of her dead baby. Anna becomes lost in the raging storm while David leads a search party. In the famous climax, the unconscious Anna floats on an ice floe down a river towards a waterfall, until rescued at the last moment by David, who marries her in the final scene.

Subplots relate the romances and eventual marriages of some of the picaresque characters inhabiting the village.

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