EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|INTOLERANCE (director/writer: D.W. Griffith; screenwriter: Tod Browning; cinematographers: G. W. Bitzer/Karl Brown; cast: Olga Grey (Mary Magdalene), Lillian Gish (The Eternal Mother), Robert Harron (The Boy), Joseph Henabery (Admiral Coligny), Lloyd Ingraham (Judge of the Court), Elmo Lincoln (Belshazzar's bodyguard), Walter Long (Musketeer), Mae Marsh (The Dear One), Vera Lewis (Mary Jenkins), Sam De Grasse (Mill Owner, Jenkins), Miriam Cooper (The Friendless One), Elmer Clifton (Rhapsode), Alfred Paget (Prince Belshazzar), Fred Turner (The Dear One's Father), Howard Gaye (Jesus), Josephine Crowell (Catherine de Medici), Tully Marshall (High Priest of Bel), Eugene Pallette (Prosper Latour), Margery Wilson (Brown Eyes), Frank Bennett (Charles IX, King of France), George Siegmann (Cyrus the Persian); Runtime: 177; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: D.W. Griffith; Alpha Video; 1916-silent)|
|"Influential landmark epic silent film."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
D.W. Griffith's ("The Birth of a Nation"/"Broken
Blossoms"/"Judith of Bethulia") influential landmark epic silent film
intercuts four distinct
tales from history about intolerance that signals an attitude of
inhumanity to others. The stories are linked by the image of an eternal
mother rocking her baby in a cradle. Three stories are based upon
history--one covers the events in Jerusalem that led
to Christ's crucifixion (told as a Passion Play), especially
those Pharisees who were hypocrites; the second
tells of the St.
Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, that has Catherine de Medici, a
Catholic, persuade her
son, King Charles IX of France, to murder the Huguenots (Protestants);
and finally, in 539 B.C., in
ancient Babylon, the evil High Priest of Bel schemes with Cyrus of
take over the empire from the decent Prince Belshazzar. The fiction
story is set in 1914 in California, where the unmarried elderly sister
of the local mill owner Jenkins, gets her brother to bankroll the
reformers. The Jenkins foundation tries to reform the mill
workers so they have less leisure time to be better prepared to work.
When the uncaring mill owner Jenkins cuts the workers' wages by ten percent to fund the
reform movement, the workers strike. It leads to some of the workers
relocating to a nearby city after the violent strike is put down by the
army. The Boy, a former mill worker, whose father was killed during the
strike, is now an exploited member of the slum Musketeer gang.
When he tries to leave the gang, the Musketeer boss has him arrested on
false charges and his wife, The Dear One, loses their child after she's
declared an unfit mom by the Jenkins foundation. The Boy is eventually
from prison, but when the Musketeer is killed he's charged with the
murder. The Boy is spared from execution when the Friendless One
confesses and the governor grants an 11th hour pardon.
was made as a
rebuke against evil and
injustice, and as a rebuttal to the severe criticism that Griffith received from his controversial smash hit
previous picture, The Birth of
(1915). Griffith wanted to make sure he was not thought of as a racist
and wanted the public to be tolerant of works of art, believing without
such an attitude freedom of expression would be curtailed.
Intolerance was shot on a
vacant lot in East Los Angeles, and its sets
are are all massive and stunning. But the Babylon set is the pic's true marvel. It
was the work of chief
carpenter, Frank "Huck"
Wortman, who gets credit for many of the innovative ways the set was so
beautifully and enormously built (bending thin boards and
coating them in plaster gave the appearance of the set being larger
than it was).
The execution of the pic
appears stiff and the storyline somewhat silly for modern times, but
despite being a
tough watch it remains a great epic film because of the potency of its
visual poetry, the intensity of its sincere message for people to learn
how to live together in harmony and the enormity of its production
extravaganzas. At the time, it was the most expensive film ever made,
and it was rewarded at the box office as well as much acclaimed by the
filmmakers and critics of its day.
REVIEWED ON 12/28/2010 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ