Seastrom; screenwriters: Frances Marion/adapted from a story by
Dorothy Scarborough; cinematographer: John Arnold;
editor: Conrad A.
Nervig; cast: Lillian Gish (Letty Mason), Lars Hanson (Lige),
Montagu Love (Wirt Roddy), Dorothy Cumming (Cora),
Edward Earle (Beverly), William Orlamond (Sourdough);
Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kevin Brownlow;
MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1928-silent)
"It's one of the few silents to stand the test of time."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A gripping melodrama of raw emotions. It's one of the few silents to stand the test of time, and is praiseworthy as one of the last great silents. Even by using modern standards it can still be viewed today as a great film. It's adapted from a story by Dorothy Scarborough. Harried MGM executive Irving Thalberg, the head of studio production, urged star Lillian Gish to take charge in getting the production rolling for "The Wind." Lillian subsequently wrote a four page story outline and recruited Frances Marion to write the screenplay. Ms. Gish also recruited the great Swedish emigré director Victor Seastrom ("The Outlaw and his Wife"/"He Who Gets Slapped"/"The Scarlet Letter"), who was giving Hollywood a temporary fling, to direct. Victor and Lillian chose the great classical Swedish stage actor Lars Hanson to play the romantic lead.
The high quality downbeat
film was shot under harsh conditions in California's
Mojave desert, where the stifling heat, blowing sand
(caused by blowing airplane propellers) and wind made
the shoot difficult. It remains a great work of art
despite the exhibitors forcing the filmmaker to tack
on an unneeded happy ending.
It opens with the innocent
and destitute young farm girl Letty Mason (Lillian Gish) traveling by train from
her hometown of Virginia to the barren Texas prairie
to stay with her clueless but friendly married cousin
Beverly (Edward Earle), a struggling cattle man
married to the overbearing witch-like Cora (Dorothy Cumming). The impoverished couple
are raising three children in the harsh region, all of
whom find more warmth from Letty than mom. On the
train Letty was wooed by the cocky Fort Worth cattle
promises to return to see her again.
The extremely jealous Cora,
thinking the guest is out to steal her man, forces
Letty to marry one of her local two crude suitors,
even if she doesn't care for either man, or she will
be given the boot. When suitor Roddy returns, he says
he's already married but wishes Letty to be his
mistress. She rejects him, but with no fare money home
the depressed Letty has no choice but to marry Lige,
despite despising both him and the dustbowl's constant
howling prairie wind. Refusing to sleep with Lige in
his bare shack, he respects her wishes and says he
will earn money for her fare home. During a severe
northerner, Lige goes on a cattle round-up while the
scoundrel Roddy returns and attempts to rape Letty. In
despair, Letty reluctantly kills the aggressive Roddy
with his own gun. When Lige returns, Letty informs him
that she learned to love him and is no longer afraid
of the wind or wants to leave.
For Seastrom, he had enough
of Hollywood after this interference incident by the
studio suits and he fled back to Sweden.
REVIEWED ON 9/15/2011 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ