Biograph Shorts: Griffith Masterworks [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Those Awful Hats
The New York Hat
The last film Mary Pickford did for director D.W. Griffith was made from the first scenario Anita Loos ever submitted to a movie studio. The young writer's story showed her to be clever beyond her years and experience. In a small Vermont town, a dying mother hands over her small savings to a minister (Lionel Barrymore). She implores him to watch over her daughter (Mary Pickford) and to buy her something nice now and again -- the girl's miserly father does not believe in luxuries. The minister promises to do so. One item he buys the girl is a fancy New York hat. The village buzzes with gossip when they see Mary wearing the hat that the minister bought, and rumors of an affair between the minister and the young girl spread. Finally the minister reveals the letter in which Mary's mother made the agreement with him, and all is well. Even with her first script, it is typical of Loos to lampoon self-righteous small-town values. After shooting The New York Hat, Pickford went on to star in a Broadway play, A Good Little Devil, for David Belasco; after that she went to work for Adolph Zukor at Famous Players. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Old Stephen Rutherford (Gerald Griffin) is a wealthy curmudgeon who disowned his son when he married a poor girl. The son is now dead and he still refuses to acknowledge the wife, Prue (Mabel Taliaferro), or his grandson Bobby (Warner Anderson). Prue works at Rutherford's candy factory and is the one bright spot in the dreary place. She has become involved with former crook Danny O'Maddigan (Raymond McKee) and has encouraged him to follow the straight and narrow. One day Prue and little Bobby are out walking when Bobby is run over by one of the Rutherford factory vehicles. He is taken to Stephen Rutherford's home and the old man is enamored of the boy, even though he does not realize he is his grandson. When this fact is revealed, a reconciliation is effected between Rutherford and Prue. Meanwhile, Danny has "borrowed" ten dollars out of the Rutherford factory safe to finance a party for his granny's 75th birthday. He is scared away before he can close the safe, and his ex-associates come in and take the rest. Danny is jailed for the theft, but when Rutherford learns that the young man is in love with Prue, he gets him off, leading to a happy end for all concerned. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

The Painted Lady
The Sealed Room
Incorrectly reviewed by the trad magazine Variety under the title The Sealed Door, this Renaissance melodrama is among the best of D.W. Griffith's early Biographs. Clearly based on Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, the film recounts the tragic romance between a young queen (Marion Leonard) and an amorous troubadour (Henry B. Walthall). To avoid detection by the King (Arthur V. Johnson), the queen and the troubadour use a tiny, secluded room in the castle tower as their love nest. But when the king discovers his wife's treachery, he seals both lovers in their trysting place. An epilogue, set several hundred years later, shows a group of tourists coming across the skeletons of the luckless couple. Mary Pickford appears as an extra in several scenes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Enoch Arden
His Trust
An Unseen Enemy
The Musketeers of Pig Alley
The Last Drop of Water
A Corner in Wheat
The Burglar's Dilemma
One Is Business, the Other Crime
The Lesser Evil
The Massacre
A wagon train is attacked by marauding Indians in this typically grisly Biograph one-reel western melodrama preserved in the print collection of the Library of Congress. After the massacre of the title, a soldier searches for his wife and child. He finds them -- under a pile of dead soldiers. Griffith and his faithful players "took" this picture in California during the company's winter and spring sojourn of 1912. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Adventures of Dollie
The Miser's Heart
The Unchanging Sea
The Mothering Heart
Death's Marathon
The Battle at Elderbush Gulch
A besieged blockhouse containing a frightened Lillian Gish, marauding Indians, and a Mexican who heroically brings the cavalry to the rescue, are the none-too-original components of D.W. Griffith's endurable 2-reeler The Battle at Elderbush Gulch, made during the director's final year with Biograph. Griffith called the film his finest up to that time, and he might very well have been correct. It was, one could say, all in the editing, which here builds to a crescendo of excitement as Gish is rescued in the nick of time. Timeworn, yes, but the master knew what he was doing and demanded longer pictures in which to do it. The old-fashioned Biograph refused, and Griffith walked, taking with him the stars of "Elderbush Gulch": Mae Marsh, Gish and Robert Harron. They all reunited the following year for the director's masterpiece, the 12-reel The Birth of a Nation. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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