The Fugitive (1910)
No, this is not a movie about a man on the run seeking a one-armed assassin. Instead, it is another of D.W. Griffith’s pre-“Birth of a Nation” explorations of the Civil War. This time, we start with not one, but two tearful farewells, as a Confederate (Edward Dillon, also in “What Shall We Do with Our Old” and “In the Border States”) and a Union soldier (Edwin August, who appears in “The House with Closed Shutters” and “The Eternal Mother”) depart for the front in one of many examples of parallelism the movie provides. In a typical coincidence, they both get separated from their units and the Yankee kills the Reb, only to find himself on the run when his fallen foe’s enemies find the body. Stretching that coincidence even further, now the survivor seeks shelter in his enemy’s home from his victim’s mother (Kate Bruce, also seen in “The Red Man’s View” and “The Unchanging Sea”)! She nearly turns him in, but “thinks of another mother, awaiting her son’s return and does the decent thing. Dorothy West (who starred in last night’s “The House with Closed Shutters”) is the fiancé who loses her beau, and her while exuberance worked on the battlefield, it seems out of place in a bereaved lover.
This movie was shot on a limited number of sets in New Jersey in the winter, and that may have limited the use of outdoor setups. There are some nice panoramas, I assume of the Hudson River area, but the porches of the two homes appear to simply be the same set shot from the opposite angle. The editing is less taut than we saw in “The House” or than would be the case in other Griffith shorts. Overall, it seems that the story suffers from a rather conventional approach, and there isn’t much here to pull it out of its banality. One historical footnote is that the original story was written about the fighting in Ireland, and that the writer himself died in 1916 during the Rising there, fighting for the Green side against the Orange.
Director: D.W. Griffith
Camera: Billy Bitzer
Starring: Kate Bruce, Edward Dillon, Edwin August, Dorothy West
Run Time: 17 Min
You can watch it for free: here.