D. W. Griffith Years of Discovery: 1909-1913
WorldCat Link: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/50742798
When I first started this project, I had vaguely in mind that it might be possible to see all of the surviving 100+ year-old-films in the course of a single year. I’m happy to report that, despite many gloomy pronouncements on the state of film preservation, this simply isn’t the case. Even getting through the oeuvre of a single director such as Griffith can be a daunting task. Fortunately for determined viewers, there are many remarkable collections of early films, like this one put out by Image Entertainment. This set includes 22 of the movies Griffith made while he was working at the Biograph Company, all of them with cameraman Billy Bitzer, who would later shoot all of Griffith’s best known works as well. These include several with recognizable faces such as Mary Pickford (later to star in “Daddy Long Legs” and “Coquette”) and Lionel Barrymore (today remembered for doing Capra films like “You Can’t Take It with You” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” in his old age). These movies focus on pathos and popular sympathies, but some are surprisingly moving even today. I was particularly impressed with the emotional drama in “What Shall We Do with Our Old?” (1911), which takes a critical look at the fate of senior citizens under unregulated capitalism. The movies range in length from 3 to 29 minutes, totaling about 5 and a half hours, and there is a commentary track by film historian Russell Merritt.