Monday, December 7, 2009

True Heart Susie

True Heart Susie; Silent drama, USA, 1919; D: D. W. Griffith, S: Lillian Gish, Robert Harron, Clarine Seymour, Kate Bruce, Raymond Cannon

Susie is a young girl living in a small village. She is in love with her neighbor William who eagerly wants to apply for college, but doesn’t have any money. Thus, Susie sells her beloved cow Daisy and sends him money anonymously. He attends a city college and returns back to the village as a pastor, neglecting Susie. When he meets a wild city girl, Bettina, he falls in love with her. Susie tries to be like a city girl too, applying make up and wearing a fancy dress, but it’s no use: he marries Bettina. Bettina cheats on him and spends one night at a wild party, but since she forgot her key she staying out in the rain and caught a cold, until she came to Susie’s home. After Bettina dies from the flu, William wows to always stay faithful to her. But one day he finds out the truth and begs Susie to forgive him.

One of lesser films of D. W. Griffith, far away from the grasp of "Intolerance" or "The Birth of a Nation", “True Heart Susie” is easily watched, but not really memorable nor worthy of a status of a classic, except maybe for being a prototype of modern soap opera. Griffith portrays the innocent, gentle village heroine from the title so idealistically that she is practically elevated into a saint, while the city girl Bettina is so demonized that she almost turns into a black and white “bad guy”, yet the story is effectively told and runs so smoothly that it seems as if it was realistic. Except for Griffith’s skills even during standard stories, the stand-out virtue of the film is actress Lillian Gish who wonderfully plays the innocent heroine. "Susie" relays mostly on that charm from the silent movie era when even the most banal stories still seemed somehow fresh because it was the first time they were ever presented on the big screen, hence the best parts are when Griffith actually inserts some stronger directorial intervention, like the "foggy" dream sequence where William imagines his wife Bettina is going to cook for him and their life will be ideal at home, but right then the camera shifts to the "reality" where William is disappointed when she just serves him 'frozen dinner', looks messy and doesn't even seem to be happy to see him.


1 comment:

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