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Broken Blossoms (Silent) 1919 NR CC

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(46) IMDb 7.7/10

The heartbreaking story of a waterfront waif (Lillian Gish) from the Limehouse district of London who escapes the abuse of her father (Donald Crisp) through a doomed relationship with a Chinese immigrant (Richard Barthelmess).

Starring:
Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess
Runtime:
1 hour, 30 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Romance, International
Director D.W. Griffith
Starring Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess
Supporting actors Donald Crisp, Arthur Howard, Edward Peil Sr., George Beranger, Norman Selby, Ernest Butterworth, Fred Hamer, Wilbur Higby, Man-Ching Kwan, Steve Murphy, George Nichols, Karla Schramm
Studio Kino International
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Rental rights 3-day viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Rivkah Maccaby on December 2, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
I've loved this film since I was a teenager. I've even read the bizarre short story that inspired it. Lillian Gish's character, Lucy, is supposed to be twelve in the story, but D.W. Griffith thought the horror of the abuse Lucy endures would traumatize a child actress, so Griffith changed Lucy's age to sixteen, and cast twenty-two year old Gish, who at five-foot-two, about ninety lbs., and in pancake make-up, manages to pull it off.
Child abuse was a new concept when this film was made. The first child abuse case in the US had been prosecuted during Griffith's lifetime (under animal cruelty laws). In order to play to audiences of 1918, when whipping children was acceptable punishment for minor violations, the abuse of Lucy, has to be severe.
Griffith doesn't need to look far. According to the original story, Lucy's boxer father isn't permitted to "strike" his "manager or to throw chairs at him," "but to use a dog-whip on a small child is permissible and quite as satisfying." So Lucy's bruised body "crept about Poplar and Limehouse. Always the white face was scarred." (I have seen Griffith's copy of the book, with his marginal notes, as well as a monograph by the author of the particular story, with signed thanks from Griffith and Gish.)
There are many ironies in this film. This is the first film treatment of child abuse, and it shows horror, because only vicious horror will convince an audience of 1918 that a child is better off away from her father.
The film also shows scenes in an opium den, at a time when this drug is perfectly legal. Our hero is a user, with no intent of quitting. The hero, played beautifully by Richard Barthelmess, is a white man in Asian make-up, because he kisses his under-age girlfriend.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Underwood VINE VOICE on May 2, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
As WWI was ending, it seemed the world had lost its innocence. The director who himself would become outdated within another decade, decided to tackle the subject of child abuse. D.W. Griffith, one of the true pioneers of American film, did so in tender fashion with one of his most simple yet most beautiful films.

The Great War may have ended, but something far worse was sweeping the globe and it would take more lives than the war had. Lillian Gish came down with the Spanish flu before filming began but, rather than remain in bed waiting to die, she donned a surgical mask and went to rehearsals for "Broken Blossoms." She would survive, but not before the film itself almost suffered the fate she had feared.

Viewed today, this is a somewhat dated but lovely and atmospheric film of great tenderness. It was not met with enthusiasm, however, by Adolph Zukor. He was not interested in art but profits and, perhaps rightly, felt that such a depressing film with such a sad ending would not go over well with the public. Griffith would borrow the money to purchase the film back from him and release it through United Artist. It would be a huge commercial and critical success and prove Zukor wrong.

Lillian Gish would have many poignant moments as a girl never shown kindness or love. Left with an abusive father (Donald Crisp) who beats her on a regular basis, her youth is stolen and full of despair. Both Gish and Mary Pickford would continue to play younger than their actual age, and Gish loses herself as a 12 year old with a heart full of hurt.

Richard Barthelmess is the Oriental shopkeeper who loves her and will help her escape her dreary lot in life.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 31, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
"Broken Blossoms" is one of the most sentimental and heartrending films I have ever seen. It couldn't be more uncommercial. Lillian Gish gives such a strong, convincing performance as a frail girl who has struggled under an abusive boxer father and finds true love and compassion through a poor Chinese storekeeper (Richard Barthelmess). Donald Crisp as the father gives reliably strong contrast from Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess's characters, which adds to the already strong credibility they give. The scene when Gish being trapped in a closet while Crisp tries to get her out is very intense. Even more intense is the end. But what touched me most was when the Chinese man went out of his way to decorate the girl's room like a princess's, and gave her beautiful clothes to wear. This film is so sentimental it seemed like a dream. I highly recommend it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 28, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Better than the more famous "Birth of a Nation" and "Way Down East," this is one of the simplest, most heartfelt films Griffith made. Lillian Gish is utterly convincing as a fifteen-year-old waif brutalized by her boxing champ father. Her abject terror before the first beating is heart-breaking: what an actress! Richard Barthelmess also gives a sensitive performance as the Chinese immigrant (audiences of the day would not have accepted a real Chinese actor in the role). The film is more direct and embarks on less tangents than others in Griffith's canon, which makes it more successful in its emotional impact. I can't help but think that this story would have been wonderful for a Puccini opera.
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