Saturday, October 11, 1997

The Griffith Project Part I: The Apprenticeship (1907 - 1908)

/ / US / 1907-1908 / Griffith, D.W. / / melodrama

The first ever complete D.W. Griffith retrospective was launched in Pordenone in 1997 and is likely to take ten years to be finished. The majority of Griffith’s over 500 films survive, but many have not been generally available since their release. Most of his Biograph shorts are preserved at the Library of Congress’ paper print collection. The paper print versions are often pre-release material, and shown in 16mm film transfer prints do not do justice to the photographic quality of the originals. Sometimes the scenes were deposited in camera negative order, making the plot impossible to follow.
It was an invaluable privilege to see these films of apprenticeship - ”Griffith before Griffith”. If he would have died having made only these films, he would be forgotten today. Seeing these films was like witnessing a baby’s first steps. The sketches and vignettes cover a wide range. There is hardly any sense of film form, storytelling, or cinematic performance. Instead, we have condensed melodramatic plots performed at breakneck speed, and telegraphed by high histrionics. In the rare 35mm prints, there is true photogenic beauty. Interestingly, the very first film directed by DWG, The Adventures of Dollie, is one of the most charming of the whole, since a beautiful print is available. It is fittingly symbolic that it is the story of a little child. Other most memorable films include Edgar Allan Poe: a clumsy but deeply felt vignette. And The Guerrilla, a visually memorable Civil War scene. DWG’s comedies are far from the masters.
Main actors in the films viewed include Linda Arvidson, Florence Lawrence, D.W. Griffith, and Mack Sennett.
The Griffith Project Part I covered the first 94 films in which DWG was active as a screenwriter, actor, or director. They all survive in some form. They were shot in one to three days. The duration ranges between 7-15’. I saw 68 of them. Most were screened at Ridotto del Verdi, Pordenone, all with piano accompaniment, all at 15 fps, 12-18 October, 1997.
The following films were produced by Biograph, and they were screened in Library of Congress prints, in 16mm, without titles and toning and are directed by DWG, unless otherwise indicated.
Professional Jealousy (1907) 35mm, MOMA, fine definition. D: Wallace McCutcheon. As an extra. DWG # 1
Falsely Accused! (1907) 35mm, MOMA, titles. D: Wallace McCutcheon. In a small role. DWG # 2
Rescued From An Eagle’s Nest (1908) PC: Edison. 35mm, MOMA, fine definition, titles. D: J. Searle Dawley. As male lead. DWG # 3
Cupid’s Pranks (1908) PC: Edison. 35mm, MOMA, titles. D: J. Searle Dawley. As an extra. DWG # 5
Princess In The Vase, The (1908) As male lead. D: Wallace McCutcheon. DWG # 6
Egyptian Princess, The (1908) Unreleased version of above. MOMA. Titles. DWG # 6
Her First Adventure (1908) 35mm, MOMA. D: Wallace McCutcheon. As male lead. DWG # 8
Old Isaacs, The Pawnbroker (1908) MOMA, from damaged source. D: Wallace McCutcheon. Screenwriter, actor. DWG # 10
At The Crossroads Of Life (1908) 35mm, MOMA, titles. D: Wallace McCutcheon. Screenwriter, actor. DWG # 24
Adventures Of Dollie, The (1908) 35mm, fine definition. DWG # 27 *
Fight For Freedom, The (1908) 35mm. DWG # 29
Redman and the Child, The (1908) 35mm. DWG # 30
For Love Of Gold (1908) From Jack London’s ”Just Meat”. DWG # 37
Fatal Hour, The (1908) DWG # 38
Balked At The Altar (1908). Comedy. DWG # 39
For A Wife’s Honor (1908) DWG # 40
Girl And The Outlaw, The (1908) Western. DWG # 41
Monday Morning In A Coney Island Police Court (1908) Comedy. DWG # 42
Red Girl, The (1908) Western. DWG # 43
Behind The Scenes (1908) DWG # 44
Heart of O Yama, The (1908) DWG # 45
Betrayed By A Handprint (1908) Detective story. DWG # 46.
Where The Breakers Roar (1908) DWG # 47
Smoked Husband, A (1908) Comedy. DWG # 48
Zulu’s Heart, The (1908) DWG # 49
Vaquero’s Vow, The (1908) DWG # 50
Father Gets In The Game (1908) Comedy. DWG # 51
Barbarian, Ingomar, The (1908) DWG # 52
Planter’s Wife, The (1908) Story resembles the Finnish classic Juha. DWG # 53
Devil, The (1908) From Ferenc Molnar’s The Devil. DWG # 54
Stolen Jewels, The (1908) DWG # 55
Mr. Jones At The Ball (1908) Comedy. DWG # 56
Romance Of A Jewess (1908) DWG # 57
Call Of The Wild, The (1908) Western. DWG # 58
Concealing A Burglar (1908) DWG # 59
Woman’s Way, A (1908) Scenes out of order. DWG # 60
Taming Of The Shrew, The (1908). Based on Shakespeare, Florence Lawrence as Kate. DWG # 61
After Many Years (1908). Based on Tennyson’s poem ”Enoch Arden”. DWG # 62
Pirate’s Gold, The (1908) DWG # 63
Guerrilla, The (1908) Civil War. 35 mm, from paper print. DWG # 64
Guerrilla, The (1908) Civil War. 35 mm, from film print, MOMA. Titles. DWG # 64 *
Guerrilla, The (1908) Civil War. 35 mm, German release version. German titles. DWG # 64
Song of the Shirt, The (1908) From Thomas Hood’s poem. DWG # 65
Curtain Pole, The (1908) Comedy starring Mack Sennett. DWG # 66
Mrs. Jones Entertains (1908) Comedy. DWG # 67
Ingrate, The (1908) DWG # 68
Feud and the Turkey, The (1908) Scenes out of order. DWG # 69
Valet’s Wife, The (1908) Comedy. Scenes out of order. DWG # 71
Clubman and the Tramp, The (1908). Comedy: ”tantalizing annoyance of having a double”. DWG # 72
Money Mad (1908) Based on Jack London’s ”Just Meat”. DWG # 73
One Touch of Nature (1908) Orphan child brings mother to sanity. DWG # 74
Awful Moment, An (1908) Gypsy woman’s revenge on judge. Scenes out of order. DWG # 75
Test of Friendship, The (1908). Millionaire lies having gone bankrupt. Scenes out of order. DWG # 76
Helping Hand, The (1908) At the altar a poor girl is about to be exposed as a whore. DWG # 77
Maniac Cook, The (1908) The kitchen maid goes mad and is about to roast a baby. DWG # 78
Christmas Burglars, The (1908) 35mm from paper print, unstable image. Pawnbroker with a heart of gold. DWG # 79
Wreath In Time, A (1908) Comedy starring Mack Sennett and resembling Sons of the Desert. DWG # 80
Honor of Thieves, The (1908) Pawnbroker’s daughter beguiled into eloping with smooth-talking thief. DWG # 81
Rural Elopement, A (1908) DWG # 82
Joneses Have Amateur Theatricals, The (1908) Comedy. DWG # 83
Sacrifice, The (1908) DWG # 84
Criminal Hypnotist, The (1908) DWG # 85
Edgar Allen Poe (1908). ”Allan” misspelled in title. Based on ”The Raven”. 35mm, MOMA. DWG # 86
Mr. Jones Has A Card Party (1908). Comedy. DWG # 87
Roue’s Heart, The (1908) Blind sculptress meets French roue. DWG # 88
Welcome Burglar, The (1908) Ex-husband shot as a burglar. DWG # 89
Hindoo Dagger, The (1908) DWG # 90
Tragic Love (1908) DWG # 91
Love Finds A Way (1908) Costume comedy in the court of Louis XIII. DWG # 92
Girls and Daddy, The (1908) Blatant racism. Scenes out of order. DWG # 93
Salvation Army Lass, The (1908) ”God Is My Light”. DWG # 94

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