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Thursday, March 13, 2014

D.W. Griffith’s America & Isn’t Life Wonderful (1924) with Carol Dempster



D.W. Griffith’s America & Isn’t Life Wonderful
 
 
“America" is a silent 1924 classic “historical war romance film” which portrays the heroic events during the Revolutionary war created by D. W. Griffith and adapted from Robert W. Chambers’ novel The Reckoning. (Griffith subtitle: Love & Sacrifice)
Starring Carol Dempster, Neil Hamilton
Directed & Produced by D. W. Griffith
Written by Robert W. Chambers
Cinematography, G. W. Bitzer, Marcel Le Picard, Hendrik Sartov, Harold S. Sintzenich
Editing by James Smith, Rose Smith
Studio: D. W. Griffith Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release date: February 21, 1924
Runninbg time: 214 minutes
 
The plot mainly centers itself on the battles of the New York State with romance sliced into the individual movie scenes.
 
The film’s climax was very original and thrilling, as in most other Griffith films, complete with action and exciting stunts in the rescue scenes. However, film critics described the motion picture as lacking in modernity of the time. The movie was unlike the other films of the time at its original release.
 
The story did not quite fit together as a whole and the order of which scenes were presented in was very confusing to follow, but was rather effective in individual scenes. The usage of title captions was also criticized.
 
There would be a block of text explaining motifs and character relationships rather than having the characters display them through their acting, which is not made clear on screen.
 
Reception
 
America did not spark itself onto the audience as well as Griffith’s previous films did. It is possible that the director had trouble differentiating between the colonists and British, since they both held origins to Great Britain. The audience is not clearly shown who are the antagonists and the protagonists. In addition, the movie’s time frame was not rational. The film’s time period made for a very long romance for Nancy and Holden before they could actually be together, since the first scenes were in 1775, but concluded in 1789. Its failure was perplexing, despite heavy promotion, considering Griffith spent over a million dollars on the production.
 
Griffith used many popular movie actors at the time, but he felt that there was no need for them to play the roles in his films, and could not afford most of them anyway, after they began to consume nearly all of his money in expensive productions.
 
As a result, Lillian Gish, who acted in a well known film of his, “Orphans of the Storm,” departed him after he could not pay any more for her services and left him with Carol Dempster who had far less appeal than Gish. She showed very little on-camera allure with Neil Hamilton and only good with reaction scenes and had limited facial expressions.
 
The film was not completely useless to Griffith, but he was still in debt with massive amounts of money and did not receive that boost of attention he was hoping for.
 
 
Isn't Life Wonderful (1924) is a silent film written, produced & directed by D. W. Griffith for his company D. W. Griffith Productions, and distributed by United Artists. It was based on the novel by Geoffrey Moss and it went under the alternative title Dawn. It starred Carol Dempster (replacement for Griffith’s protégé Lillian Gish) and Neil Hamilton.
 
Most of the scenes were filmed in Germany and Austria. Only one was filmed in New York at the studio. The film stars Carol Dempster and Neil Hamilton. The film was a failure at the box office, and led to Griffith leaving United Artists shortly after its run in theaters.
 
The film did receive some positive critical notices at the time, but its stock has risen considerably since; it has for some decades been considered one of Griffith's greatest films.
 
The title of the film was spoofed in the Charley Chase comedy Isn't Life Terrible (1925).
 
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