Way Down East

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Way Down East
Directed by D. W. Griffith
Produced by D. W. Griffith (uncredited)
Written by D. W. Griffith (uncredited)
Joseph R. Grismer
Anthony Paul Kelly (scenario)
Starring Lillian Gish
Richard Barthelmess
Lowell Sherman
Burr McIntosh
Music by Louis Silvers
William Frederick Peters
Cinematography Billy Bitzer
Hendrik Sartov
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) September 3, 1920 (1920-09-03)
Running time 145 minutes
107 minutes
(1931 re-release)
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles
Budget US$ 700,000
Money made $4,500,000

Way Down East is a 1920 silent movie. It was directed by D. W. Griffith. The movie stars Lillian Gish as Anna and Richard Barthelmess as David. The movie is based on a 19th century play by Lottie Blair Parker.

This movie is famous for its exciting climax. Lillian Gish's character is rescued from certain death on an icy river. Way Down East is the fourth highest grossing silent movie in movie history. It brought in more than $4,500,000 at the box office in 1920.[1] Some parts of Way Down East were shot in an early Technicolor process.[2]

Main cast[change | change source]

  • Anna Moore, a poor country girl - Lillian Gish
  • David Bartlett, son of Squire Bartlett - Richard Barthelmess
  • Squire Bartlett, David's father - Burr McIntosh
  • Lennox Sanderson, father of Anna's baby - Lowell Sherman

Story[change | change source]

Anna Moore is tricked into a fake marriage by the rich Lennox Sanderson. She gets pregnant, and he leaves her. She has the baby on her own. The baby dies. Anna wanders until she gets a job with Squire Bartlett. His son David falls in love with her. She rejects him because of her past.

Squire Bartlett learns of Anna's past. He throws her out into a blizzard. Anna becomes lost in the storm. David leads a search party. Anna floats down an icy river towards a steep waterfall. She is rescued by David. He marries her in the final scene.

Response[change | change source]

Some modern critics like the movie, some do not. Paul Brenner has written, "Many of Griffith's features suffer from sententious moralizing, a sense of God speaking to the masses, and outright racism. But Way Down East highlights the greatness of Griffith without having to sit through the Sermon on the Mount or the Ride of The Klan. In Way Down East, Griffith's psychotic nuttiness, for once, didn't get in the way of a good [movie]."[3]

Critic Dennis Schwartz likes "the strong emotional performances of the diminutive Lillian Gish". He decides that "this old-fashioned bucolic soap opera doesn't translate well to modern-times. It's quintessential Griffith melodrama, a mix of opposing forces between those favoring Bible morality and the wealthy hedonists who mock God with their amorality ... [the movie] has an irritating moralistic Bible flavor in supporting monogamy ... The [movie]'s most exciting scene was made without any special effects, and is the only thing about the [movie] worth remembering."[4]

References[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]