in about 100 words or less
USA 145m, silent (B&W)
Director: D.W. Griffith; Cast: Lilian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Lowell Sherman, Burr McIntosh, Kate Bruce
Way Down East is one of the most likable D.W. Griffith movies of the early silent era. The differences between rural and urban values are examined through a most dramatic story about a country “girl” who is taken advantage of while attempting to make a life for herself in the city. Tricked into a false marriage and left with a dying child, Anna, played by Lilian Gish, re-makes her life while hiding her shameful past. Notwithstanding some distracting extended close-ups of Gish, the film is very engaging and so are the performances. The climax of the movie is the daring rescue of Gish by her husband-to-be, who risks his life hopping across ice pans as they both float towards certain death – a massive waterfall, which must have had audiences sitting on the edges of their seats cheering for her true love, who doesn’t judge her by her past indiscretions (Klaus Ming December 2008).