Starring Lillian and Dorothy Gish
December 31, 1921

When Dad, who answers the questions asked in the advertisements, was a youngster, he used to see the billboards wildly announcing Kate Claxton in "The Two Orphans," and if he was a lucky kid, his Dad took him to see the weepy old D'Ennery melodrama with Miss Claxton playing both the orphans and piteously making the blind Louise's plight the principal feature of the play. And Mother Frochard was most evil in her treatment of Louise, and the brothers fought a great knife-duel, and the youngster was much impressed. Kate Claxton played the piece until most people in the country probably thought she was the only one who possibly could play that sort of emotional stuff, and then, years after, Grace George went out in an all-star cast playing the two sisters for a time.

But in the Griffith picture now offered the girls' parts are not "doubled" but are charmingly acted by the sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish, and in the picture the blind girl does not have most of the emotional acting to do. That falls to Lillian who is given much work to do that is not at all remembered as coming from the old play - and need it be said she does it well. As the protector of the innocent blind sister, she is not only sisterly but motherly; as the brave girl helping the injured Danton and hereby winning the gratitude of the man who is to save her life at the end of the play, she is delightfully womanly and sweet; and as the girl in love with the noble Chevalier, she is certainly all that a girl in love ought to be. A delightful piece of characterization it is that Mis Lillian gives throughout the play.

Dorothy Gish's portrayal of the blind girl is delicate, interesting and most pathetic in the scenes of her distressful plight in the squalor and poverty of old Paris, and in the scene in which the sisters come so near to be re-united - only to be kept apart when Henriette is arrested for harboring an aristocrat - her playing was most effective. Mention, too, should certainly be made of the excellence of Joseph Schildkraut as the hero, Monte Blue as Danton, and Sidney Herbert's extremely fine portrayal of Robespierre.

The picture as Mr. Griffith has made it rests more on Carlyle's French Revolution and Dickens' Tale of Two Cities for its environment than it does on the old D'Ennery melodrama, although the salient points of the story of The Two Orphans are all utilized. But the power of the play is in the big pictures of those turbulent times in France when the people seized the rights so long denied them and went to terrible excesses of cruelty and injustice in enforcing those "rights." The scenes of the French Revolution - like the assault on the Bastille, the horrible pageantry of the guillotine, the wild harangues before the crowds that attended the evil courts of "Justice" that were established - these and many others certainly had their appeal to a director of David W. Griffith's imagination. And in his scenes of the crowded streets, of the battles, the barricades, the prisons, the place of the guillotine, the wild ride of Danton and his followers to save the lovely heroine and her love from the falling knife - these are all made tremendously effective in the art of the producer.

Video source: Kino

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