Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Broken Blossoms(1919).

Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl is a 1919 silent film directed by D.W. Griffith. Cast: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess and Donald Crisp. It is based on Thomas Burke's short story "The Chink and the Child" from the 1916 collection Limehouse Nights.

With high hopes in changing Westerners' violent ways Chang, with his Buddhist believes moves to England. Many years later, working as a shopkeeper in London's Lime-house district, Chang watches Lucy Burrows, out his window. Even though he sees that she is underfed and wearing ragged clothes. Chang, thinks that she is beautiful and falls in love with her from afar. Then one day he comes to her aide when another Oriental attacks her.

After Burrows whips Lucy, almost to death after she spills soup on his hand, she walks the streets and falls unconscious in front of Chang's shop, he then takes her in and dresses her as a princess in beautiful silks. They become fast friends. Lucy gives Chang the respect he needs and he gives Lucy the only gentleness she has ever known.

After a friend of Burrows, finds Lucy staying with Chang,  he then goes to inform her father. More than angry, Burrows finds her and drags her home. Will Chang get there in time to save Lucy from another beating?

Full length movie.

Fun Facts:

Lillian Gish did not want to make the picture and D.W. Griffith had to work hard to persuade her to do it. She later said she was glad she consented.

Filming took 18 days and nights. Donald Crisp's scenes were filmed at night because he was directing another film during the day.

D.W. Griffith saw Lillian Gish using her smile gesture with her fingers and decided to incorporate it into the filming.

The only makeup Richard Barthelmess used in order to appear Oriental was a very tight rubber band stretched around his forehead, pulling his facial features slightly upward. The rubber band was cleverly concealed beneath his cap.

The film was produced by D.W. Griffith for Adolph Zukor's Artcraft company, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. But when Griffith delivered the final print of the film to Zukor, the producer was outraged. "How dare you deliver such a terrible film to me!" Zukor raged. "Everybody in the picture dies!" Infuriated, Griffith left Zukor's office and returned the next day with $250,000 in cash, which he threw on Zukor's desk. "Here," Griffith shouted, "If you don't want the picture, I'll buy it back from you." Zukor accepted the offer, thus making this the first film released by United Artists, the production company formed in 1919 by Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Griffith. It was a remarkably successful film, both critically and at the box office.

The film's premiere engagement included a live prologue featuring a dance routine performed by actress Carol Dempster. During Dempster's dance the stage was illuminated by blue and gold footlights. Later, during the screening of the film, a stagehand accidentally switched on those footlights and the movie screen tinted the film in an unusual way. D.W. Griffith, standing in the rear of the auditorium, was so surprised and delighted at the blue and gold-tinted effect that he ordered all copies of the film to be tinted in those colors during certain key sequences.

One of the films listed in "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Jay Schneider.

"Broken Blossoms" is the story about two abused people who find comfort and strength in one another. This is one of the most heartbreaking silent movies ever filmed.


  1. Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith had one of those great star/director partnerships. He knew how to get the best performances out of her, and she's heartbreakingly good here.

  2. This is such a beautiful and delicate film. Thank you for the lovely write up.

  3. I'm working on the 1,001 movies list, but I haven't gotten around to seeing this one yet.


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