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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TRUE HEART SUSIE (1919)


D. W. Griffith & Lillian Gish released this beguiling comic/romantic idyll only two weeks after their great, overwhelmingly emotional tragic melodrama, BROKEN BLOSSOMS. Together, the pics represent an astonishing display of dramatic range, so it’s a shame that this modest charmer, which profits from the personal resonance a country boy like Griffith gives it, has inevitably been somewhat overlooked. It’s the old story of the small town boy who marries the flashy new-girl-in-town (Clarine Seymore) when his true mate (that’d be Lillian) has been living right across the (unpaved) street his whole life. Bobby Harron is adorable as the gangly boy who doesn’t know it was Gish who secretly paid for his seminary schooling (she sold her cow to raise the money!) while Gish is wonderfully funny and just a bit tough as the cow-eyed girl who suffers & triumphs with equal poise. These two are so delicious as lovesick teens in the prologue that Griffith saves a lovely shot of them as kids in a country lane for his epilogue. And the film has unexpected poignancy for those who know that Harron (and Seymore, his unhappy bride) died unexpectedly the following year.

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