Victor Sjöström

 Sc.: Frances Marion. F.: Hendrik Sartov. C.: Max Rée. In.: Lillian Gish (Hester Prynne), Lars Hanson (Il Reverendo Arthur Dimmesdale), Henry B. Walthall (Roger Prynne), Karl Dane (Giles), William H. Tooker (il governatore), Marcelle Corday (la Signora Hibbins), Fred Herzog  (il carceriere), Jules Cowles (il sagrestano), Mary Hawes (Patience), Joyce Coad (Pearl), James A. Marcus (un capitano di marina). P.: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. 35mm. L.: 2351m. D.: 113’ a 18 f/s.



T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The premiere of The Scarlet Letter at New York’s Central Theatre on August 9, 1926, was well attended, as was any Lillian Gish film.

While The Scarlet Letter  was a popular success, there was a sizeable segment of the American audience who continued to view Lillian as “too old-fashioned for the Jazz-Age”, despite the total silence before the sustained thunderous applause that came.

The most vocal of Lillian’s detractors in the United States was, surprisingly, Photoplay editor James R. Quirk. Quirk influential publication (whose circulation was in the millions) had built up Lillian’s reputation a decade earlier when she was working for D.W.Griffith. Now her post-Griffith performances contained mannerism, and she was merely a technician, not an artist.

In the March 1926 issue of Photoplay, Quirk was dismissing her as “The Enigma of the Screen”: “Examining her characterisations you will find she achieves greatness of effect through a single plane of emotion, namely hysteria”. The October issue of Photoplay continued the caustic criticism with a piece written while The Scarlet Letter was still being exhibited in major theatres across the United States: “Lillian Gish wears the red letter of sin with her stock virginal sweetness”.

What had happened to Lillian Gish? Aileen Pringle offered the following answer: “Nobody would say it, but Quirk and Photoplay were at the mercy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Anything Mr. Mayer wanted, he got. James Quirk knew he had to listen or lose the chance of being the first publication to cover the latest MGM news.

Mayer didn’t get the returns he thought Lillian Gish was capable of bringing in. But he didn’t want to look like the evil man. He let Photoplay do the job. Then he could call in Lillian and show her what was being written about her. Movies have always been about money. The investment has to be smaller than the return. She no longer justified the investment. She wasn’t bringing home enough bacon”. (in S. Oderman, Lillian Gish. A Life on Stage and Screen, Jefferson and London, Mc Farland, 2000)

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