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Lillian Gish, at her most transcendentally lovely and moving, is the innocent and trusting young country girl tricked into a fake marriage by wealthy, womanising wastrel Lowell Sherman, who leaves her pregnant. The baby dies and the destitute girl finds employment with fanatically religious farmer Burr McIntosh, whose son Richard Barthelmess falls in love with her. Only a full-length essay could do justice to DW Griffith's film - his most profitable venture after Birth of a Nation. A 1920s melodrama with elements of tragedy, the film offers a happy ending that is nothing less than a coup given what has gone before. Although uncomfortably extended in length by some extraneous and jarring "yokel" comedy, Way Down East is a miracle of visual composition, brilliantly acted, with Gish giving one of the most eloquent performances of the silent screen. Justly celebrated for the climactic sequence where Gish, drifting unconscious on a raft of ice in a storm, is rescued by Barthelmess, the film offers many less obvious moments that are just as memorable.
|Anna Moore||Lillian Gish|
|David Bartlett||Richard Barthelmess|
|Anna's mother||Mrs David Landau|
|Lennox Sanderson||Lowell Sherman|
|Squire Bartlett||Burr McIntosh|
|Mrs Tremont||Josephine Bernard|
|Diana Tremont||Mrs Morgan Belmont|
|Barn dancer||Norma Shearer|
|Director||D W Griffith|