Watch Way Down East
- 2 hr 25 min
Way Down East is a timeless silent film drama from 1920 that starred iconic actress Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess. It was based on a popular play of the same name written in 1898 by Lottie Blair Parker. The film tells the story of Anna Moore (Lillian Gish), a young woman who arrives in a small New England town in search of work. Anna meets wealthy landowner Squire Bartlett (Burr McIntosh), who offers her a job as a servant. Squire's son, David (Richard Barthelmess), quickly falls in love with Anna, despite the class differences that separate them. The innocent Anna and David soon get married in secret and plan to announce their union to Squire Bartlett. However, when Squire learns of their secret marriage, he disowns David, and Anna finds herself cast out with no home or job. Anna heads to the countryside to give birth to her child, but tragedy strikes when her baby dies, leaving her alone and destitute. Anna suffers through a fierce ice storm, falling unconscious on the ice. David, who had since come to regret his silence, finally arrives on the scene to save her from sure death. The film's climax scene featured one of the most dangerous stunts of its time, in which actress Lillian Gish had to lay on actual ice floes floating down a frozen river. The scene was a magnificent achievement in cinematography, capturing the cold and despair that Anna felt as she lay stranded and alone. One of the core themes of Way Down East is morality, and how society often looks down on those who are considered to be of lower class or have accidentally made mistakes. Anna struggled in the film to maintain her morality and purity, even amidst the unsympathetic and callous attitudes of much of society. The performances in Way Down East were exceptional, with Lillian Gish delivering a stirring portrayal of Anna Moore. Richard Barthelmess's performance as David was equally powerful, giving an emotional performance that left audiences with a sense of hope and redemption. Mrs. David Landau's performance as the squire's wife was also notable, as she portrayed the societal pressures that confined women to certain roles and expectations. The film's director, D.W. Griffith, was a pioneer of cinematic storytelling, and Way Down East became one of his greatest achievements. He used innovative techniques such as close-ups, montages, and cross-cutting to convey the depth of emotions experienced by the characters. Overall, Way Down East was a beautiful and gripping film that still resonates with audiences today. The themes of morality, societal norms, and redemption remain deeply relevant, and the film stands as a testament to the power of cinematic storytelling.