Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Two Daughters of Eve

US 1912. PC: Biograph. D: D.W. Griffith; DP: G.W. Bitzer; cast: Claire McDowell (mother), Henry B. Walthall (father), Florence Geneva (showgirl), Robert Harron, D.W. Griffith, W. Christy Cabanne, Harry Carey; Betacam SP (transfer from 8mm acetate print, 16 fps), 12’, print source: Andres Benz Collection, Neckarsulm. Original in English with e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Andreas Benz. Viewed in Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Ridotto del Verdi, 7 October 2008. - The New York Dramatic Mirror: "Deep in the breasts of most women, underneath the painted exterior of many, lie the same natural spontaneous instincts of true womanhood. This is the truth brought out in this drama dealing with love and sacrifice of two women. One possesses a husband, a child, and money, and the other is doing a song and dance in the chorus of a cheap musical show. The child becomes lost one afternoon while the parents are visiting in the neighborhood of the theater, and is found in the arms of the chorus girl. The mother snatches the child away, fearful lest it should become contaminated with such company. By a peculiar twist of fortune, in the months that follow this incident, the husband becomes enamored with the charms of the pretty chorus girl and neglects his wife so that she is forced to leave him. Soon afterward, he loses his fortune, and when the chorus girl turns against him, he is left to realize his bitter condition. The mother, unable to find employment, as a last resort applies at the theater, where she met the other woman months before. At first the girl laughs at the mother, but is afterward touched by her sorrow and destitute condition. Following the mother into the dressing-room, she gives her jewels that rightfully belong to her; jewels that the husband has squandered his money upon. It proves the mother’s temporal salvation, and the chorus girl returning home with her, is now allowed to kiss the child. The husband is forgiven and the little family of three go out to start life over again, while the chorus girl retires into the background with sad and longing eyes. It is a story of vivid contrasts.” The New York Dramatic Mirror, 25 September 1912, p.32 [DWG Project # 427]. - AA: a film so laconic, it's hard to follow. Ostensibly melodramatic, it reverses expectations. The showgirl shows love and compassion to all. The mother must learn the hard way. The husband cheats them both. It's rare to see full-figured Rubensian female charms with DWG, and Florenca Geneva belongs to the Marilyn Monroe tradition of American cinema. An early appearance of Lillian Gish as an extra.

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