D.W. Griffith is properly esteemed as the "Father of Film" from his years of discovery making short films at the pioneer Biograph Company and for such pioneering features as The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East and Orphans of the Storm, but his later films - several of them lost or almost unavailable - are often dismissed as back efforts of a talent in decline. Griffith's 1928 comedy-drama The Battle of the Sexes belies this perception.
The story involves a middle-aged magnate (humanitarian Jean Hersholt, whose film performances extended from Greed to Dr. Christian) who makes a fool of himself when he strays from his loving but frowsy wife (Belle Bennett, so unforgettable in Stella Dallas) and children (Billy Bakewell and Sally O'Neill) into the cynical arms of a gold digger (Phyllis Haver) and her dishonest lover (Don Alvarado). As these characters are hurt and healed, Griffith expertly draws fine lines between tragedy and comedy, and his skill makes all the difference between emotional satisfaction and formulaic melodrama. Like so many of Griffith's earlier films, there must be elements of autobiography in this one, for the 53-year-old filmmaker's sympathy is all with the middle-aged philanderer whose relationships with women are no less myopic than Griffith's own.
Coming in the year of transition to sound, The Battle of the Sexes was originally released with synchronized recorded music, including an obligatory song. Griffith is reported to have been critical of the music, which has been lost in any case, but compilers Rodney Sauer and Susan Hall worked the song into the new score prepared for this edition and recorded in digital stereo by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The image has been digitally mastered from a vintage print made directly from the original camera negative.
Length: 88 minutes
Director: D.W. Griffith
Starring: Jean Hersholt, Phyllis Haver, Belle Bennett, Don Alvarado, Sally O'Neill
Music: Compiled by Rodney Sauer and Susan Hall
Produced for DVD by David Shepard
From the Blackhawk Films® Collection
Presented by Flicker Alley