Way Down East
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"I'm not a bad businessman", filmmaker D.W. Griffith once protested, "Honestly I'm not!" Yet industryites were certain that Griffith had taken leave of his financial senses when he paid $175,000 for the screen rights to the old Lottie Blair Parker stage play Way Down East. Considered out of date even in 1920, the play told the story of Anna (Lillian Gish), the efficient yet secretive serving girl for a large farm family. Anna falls in love with David Bartlett (Richard Barthelmess), the family's son, but feels unworthy of him due to her checkered past. It seems… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"With the gathering together of a relatively small cast and less than half a dozen stellar film artists, D.W. has taken a simple, elemental, old-fashioned, bucolic melodrama and milked it for 12 reels of absorbing entertainment."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"What's amazing is that so much of Gish's tough, funny, intuitive performance, particularly in the film's middle section as she bears her illegitimate child, transcends time, place and technology."
‑ Mark Adamo, Washington Post
"This is melodramatic soap opera at its most blatant and at its very best."
‑ Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
"Classic feminist film"
‑ Michael E. Grost, Classic Film and Television
"[Lillian Gish's] virtuoso performance makes the heroine's growth from gullible innocence to bitter experience credible."
‑ , Time Out
"Spectacular to look at, emotionally engaging and with a conclusion that still sends a shiver down the spine."
‑ , Film4
"If you are not moved at the scene of Gish baptizing her dead baby, then you should check the obituaries of your local paper to see if you are listed."
‑ Paul Brenner, Filmcritic.com
"The movie is today noted chiefly for its legendary climactic episode: a harrowingly realistic sequence in which the hero hurdles a succession of floating ice blocks to save the heroine from being washed over the falls."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
"Through his star, Lillian Gish, Griffith gives the story an emotional power that lifts this 1920 silent feature to the level of a folktale; it becomes something simple, strong, and timeless."
‑ Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
"One of Griffith's most rousing visions of film as visual-emotional ebb and flow, connection and rupture"
‑ Fernando F. Croce, CinePassion
"Old-fashioned bucolic soap opera doesn't translate well to modern-times."
‑ Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews
"Way Down East (1920) is D. W. Griffith's classic, silent melodramatic film. He bought the film rights to the story, originally a stage play of the same name"
‑ Tim Dirks, Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films
More reviews for Way Down East on Rotten Tomatoes