Painted Lady (1912)
This Griffith short can be read both as an indictment of the gender order and a frank portrayal of mental illness and its consequences. Blanche Sweet (from “Corner in Wheat” and later in “Judith of Bethulia”) is the eponymous woman, perhaps better described as “the Unpainted Lady,” since her strict father refuses to allow her to dress up or wear makeup. When she goes to the ice cream festival (?!), she is unpopular, because of her plain looks. Finally, a man (Joseph Graybill, from “The Last Drop of Water” and “Enoch Arden”) shows interest in her, but it’s only to find out if her father has anything worth stealing. When he breaks in to their home in a mask, Blanche shoots him first and asks questions later. This is where her mind starts to go, and she tries to introduce her father to her lover as he lies dead. Later, her mother (Kate Bruce, who we’ve seen in “The Sunbeam” and “The New York Hat”) catches her talking to herself. Finally, she puts on makeup and goes to their old rendezvous point only to collapse in shame. It seems as though the real tragedy here is a society that forces her to judge her value as a person only in terms men’s opinions and her family’s lack of understanding when the symptoms become clear.
Director: D.W. Griffith
Camera: Billy Bitzer
Starring: Blanche Sweet, Joseph Graybill, Kate Bruce, Lillian Gish, Robert Harron, Henry B. Walthall.
Run Time: 13 Min
You can watch it for free: here.