Way Down East (1920)

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Released 1-Jun-2001
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The original billing by D.W.Griffith as 'A Simple Story of Plain People' understates the scale and significance of his most ambitious production to that date. There are no spectacular settings, no armies of extras, no highly paid stars, but costs mounted while Griffith waited for the seasons to change and nature to produce the wondrous effects which he used magnificently to reflect the emotional states of the characters expertly combined with small passages of comic relief.
Lillian Gish plays Anna Moore, a poor New England girl, who is sent to seek financial aid from her wealthy relations in Boston. She is reluctantly accepted by her cousins but her charms are coveted by Lennox Sanderson, a wealthy local playboy who is so infatuated with Anna that he stages a mock wedding and convinces her that they are married - but to keep the wedding a secret. She becomes pregnant and Sanderson tells her the truth and abandons her. She finds a room at a lodging house in nearby, Belden House, where she has the child but it sickens and dies, baptised only by Anna herself in a very poignant scene.
Anna embarks on a pilgrimage to seek work and comes upon the farm of the God-fearing Squire Bartlett where she finds work, warmth and the love of the son, David (Richard Barthelmess). But the farm is near the Sanderson estate and Lennox is a frequent visitor and he tries to make Anna leave the farm but she uses the threat of exposing his past to secure her position.
Anna's ex-landlady from Belden visits the nearby town and reveals that Anna stayed with her as 'Mrs Lennox' and that she had a baby - but no husband! This is rapidly relayed to the squire who orders Anna out in the famous, and much copied, scene. Before leaving Anna denounces her seducer, who is having dinner with the squire's family, and then goes out into a raging spring blizzard.
One of the most remarkable sequences in film history follows with Anna, blinded by emotions and the storm, running away and stumbling onto the frozen river where she collapses. With the river ice breaking up, she is carried, on her ice floe, towards the edge of the falls - but is rescued by David in a sequence full of suspense and amazing agility.
The film closes with forgiveness all round - and three marriages.
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Lillian Gish
Richard Barthelmess
Lowell Sherman
Directed by
D.W. Griffith
Louis Silvers
Genre Year Running Time Format Region Coding RSDL
Romance 1920 145:01 576i (PAL) 1 2 3 4 5 6
Full Frame
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Main Menu Introduction, Menu Audio, Notes-Film Introduction
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