Way Down East

Way Down East

Lillian Gish
Director: D.W. Griffith Cast: Lillian Gish
Lillian Gish
, Richard Barthelmess
Richard Barthelmess
, Lowell Sherman
Lowell Sherman
D.W. Griffith


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"I'm not a bad businessman," filmmaker D.W. Griffith once protested, "Honestly I'm not!" Yet industryites were certain that Griffith had taken leave of his financial senses when he paid $175,000 for the screen rights to the old Lottie Blair Parker stage play Way Down East. Considered out of date even in 1920, the play told the story of Anna (Lillian Gish), the efficient yet secretive serving girl for a large farm family. Anna falls in love with David Bartlett (Richard Barthelmess), the family's son, but feels unworthy of him due to her checkered past. It seems that, years earlier, Anna had been duped into a sham marriage by city slicker Lenox Sanderson (Lowell Sherman). When she became pregnant, Sandson walked out on her. Shortly afterwards, her newborn child died, and Anna was shunned by her home community. These facts come to surface when Sanderson returns to Anna's life as the local squire. David's prudish father orders Anna out of the house and into a blinding snowstorm, but David, after settling accounts with the duplicitious Sanderson, goes after Anna and claims her as his bride. In adapting Way Down East for the screen, Griffith fleshes out the characters of Anna and Sanderson by adding a prologue, which included one of those poignant scenes ever filmed: Anna's tearful insistence that her dying baby be baptized. He also injected the weary old property with a jolt of sheer showmanship, added a "last minute rescue" sequences wherein Anna, lying exhausted on an ice floe, is rescued by David seconds before plunging over a precipitous waterfall. Even today's audiences, armed with the foreknowledge that Lillian Gish enjoyed 73 hale and hearty years after the completion of Way Down East, invariably gasp in fright and urge Richard Barthelmess to "hurry! hurry!"during the climactic scene. Far from becoming Griffith's Folly as predicted, Way Down East was a huge moneymaker. There is no better of Griffith's artistry than the fact that the 1930 talkie remake of Way Down East, though directed by the formidable Henry King, failed to match the pathos and power of the 1920 version. Our own quibble: why did Griffith retain so much of the original play's wheezy comedy relief, and why did he put that relief in the hands of the relentlessly unfunny Creighton Hale?

Product Details

Release Date: 11/18/2008
UPC: 0738329064020
Original Release: 1920
Rating: NR
Source: Kino Lorber
Sound: [Dolby Digital Stereo]
Time: 2:29:00
Sales rank: 43,238

Special Features

Mastered in HD from the Museum of Modern Art's 35mm restoration, with original coolor tints; Score compiled from historic photoplay music, performed by The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra; Notes on Lottie Blair Parker's original play; Photos of William Brady's 1903 stage version; Film clip: The ice floe sequence of the Edison Studio's production of Uncle Tom's Cabin; Image gallery, including the original souvenir program book; Notes on the preparation of the music score

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lillian Gish Anna Moore
Richard Barthelmess David Bartlett
Lowell Sherman Lennox Sanderson
Burr McIntosh Squire Bartlett
Creighton Hale Prof. Sterling
Kate Bruce Mrs. Bartlett
Mary Hay Kate Brewster
Emily Fitzroy Maria Poole
Edgar Nelson Hi Holler
George Neville Reuben 'Rube' Whipple
Florence Short The Eccentric Aunt
Porter Strong Seth Holcomb

Technical Credits
D.W. Griffith Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Billy Bitzer Cinematographer
G.W. Blitzer Cinematographer
Anthony Paul Kelly Screenwriter
William Frederick Peters Score Composer
Rose Smith Editor
Hendrik Sartov Cinematographer
Charles Osborne Seessel Art Director
Louis Silvers Score Composer
James Smith Editor
Herbert Sutch Asst. Director
Frank Walsh Asst. Director

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Way Down East
1. Opening Titles [3:46]
2. Home, Sweet Home [3:32]
3. The Bridge Whist Party [7:32]
4. Bartlett Village [2:22]
5. The Tremont Ball [3:11]
6. The Fox [4:15]
7. Aunty's Place [4:14]
8. Evil Plans [4:34]
9. The Bridal Suite [2:30]
10. Simple Life [5:26]
11. A New Hope [1:29]
12. His Old Ways [2:38]
13. A Tender New Reason [6:36]
14. Anna and Her Shame [3:39]
15. The Baptism [1:55]
16. The Cold Hand [2:20]
17. Pilgrimage [4:27]
18. Arrivals [7:30]
19. Kate's Homecoming [3:32]
20. Sanderson Comes Calling [4:49]
21. David and Anna [2:53]
22. Part Two: Opening Title [2:12]
23. A Rural Idyll [3:48]
24. A Clumsy Courtship [3:38]
25. A Winter Chill [2:57]
26. The Sewing Circle [5:33]
27. Hope of Forgiveness [3:38]
28. The Warm-Up [7:34]
29. The Interloper [3:25]
30. The Ugly Truth [4:17]
31. The Squire's Inquiry [4:53]
32. Cast Out [6:46]
33. The Storm [2:21]
34. The Sugar Camp [3:30]
35. The Ice Break [6:08]
36. A New Day [5:33]

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