Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp, Arthur Howard, Edward Peil
Written by: D.W. Griffith, based on a story by Thomas Burke
Directed by: D.W. Griffith
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90
Date: 05/13/1919

Broken Blossoms (1919)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Flower Girl

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

D.W. Griffith made this heartbreaking drama following his expensive flop Intolerance (1916), and despite the shockingly politically incorrect facets, it may be his simplest, most affecting work. Lillian Gish plays Lucy, a girl of a dilapidated dockside village, dumped on the doorstep of her brutish, abusive father, professional boxer Battling Burrows (Donald Crisp). After receiving a terrible beating, Lucy stumbles into the doorway of a Chinese shop owner, Cheng Huan (Richard Barthelmess), who proceeds to care for her. Griffith plays with subtle shades of racism here, wondering if Lucy could ever develop feelings for her protector, and as always, he effortlessly plucks at the heartstrings with his open-hearted touch. Gish's sweet, birdlike performance as the timid Lucy helps as great deal, as do Griffith's beautifully written intertitles. The dreamy, tender Barthelmess is equally good.

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