In 1918 and 1919, D.W. Griffith turned from spectacles such as The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance and Hearts of the World to smaller films, which he called his "short story series." Among these is True Heart Susie (June 1919). "There are those of us who consider True Heart Susie to be the Griffith's masterpiece," writes Tom Gunning in his notes for a 2006 screening at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. He goes on to praise the "narrative structure and point of view, as well as the fine details of performance, framing and even the use of inter titles, which make a seemingly modest film such as this appear nearly incandescent in its confessional and emotional power."
In an almost mythical American arcadia, Lillian Gish portrays a pure, prim girl who so loves her childhood sweetheart (Griffith's most charming boyish hero, Robert Harron) that she sells the family cow to anonymously finance his higher education, only to lose him to a more "modern" woman (Clarine Seymour) when he comes home. Miss Gish's performance is among her best, her face is what Gunning calls a "battleground of emotions, staging complete and progressive dramas of realization, recognition and despair."
As a bonus feature, we offer Hoodoo Ann (February 1916). This lightcomedy is Griffith-supervised and scripted (using the pseudonym Granville Warwick), although the actual direction is by Lloyd Ingraham. Although the plot is a tangle of unlikely coincidence, the performers make it work, and "it is filled with those little touches for which Fine Arts Pictures are famous," in the words of an original review.
Rodney Sauer compiled the music for both films; the score for True Heart Susie is performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. True Heart Susie was prepared in cooperation with the British Film Institute. James White of BFI Films supervised the digital mastering from BFI's 35mm duplicate negative, recreating the original tinting according to BFI's unique original print. Image quality and condition of the film is generally excellent. Hoodoo Ann is digitally mastered from a 35mm fine-grain master positive made from the camera negative. Both films are speed-corrected to appropriate frame rates.
True Heart Susie
Length: 87 minutes
Director/Producer/Writer: D.W. Griffith for Paramount-Artcraft
Starring: Lillian Gish, Robert Harron, Clarine Seymour, Loyola O'Connor, Kate Bruce, Wilbur Higby
Length: 64 minutes
Writer/Producer: D.W. Griffith
Director: Lloyd Ingraham
Starring: Mae Marsh, Robert Harron, William H. Brown, Loyola O'Connor, Wilbur Higby, Mildred Harris
Music: Compiled by Rodney Sauer and Performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Produced for DVD by David Shepard
From the Blackhawk Films® Collection
Presented by Flicker Alley
Scenario by Marian Fremont