Re-creating the aristocratic splendor and devastating poverty of 18th century France, D.W. Griffith weaves an emotionally charged tale of two delicate souls caught in the tempest of revolution.
Lillian and Dorothy Gish star as the resourceful Henriette and the blind Louise, who leave their countryside home for Paris in hopes of having Louise's sight restored. Spied by the lecherous Marquis de Praille (Morgan Wallace), Henriette is abducted and the women are tragically separated in a city on the brink of anarchy. With the help of a kind-hearted nobleman (Joseph Schildkraut), Henriette endeavors to find the helpless Louise, but cruel fate repeatedly thwarts her efforts. Griffith exploits their heart-wrenching dilemma with masterful skill, crowning the drama with political intrigue, spectacle, and his usual degree of social moralizing (staunchly disclaiming any parallels between the French Revolution and recent waves of "bolshevism"), drawing the multi-layered epic to its white-knuckle climax outside the old city gates in Paris, beneath the gleam of the guillotine's scarlet blade.
Orphans of the Storm provided Lillian Gish with her final role for Griffith, bringing to a close the long and fruitful collaboration that began in 1912 with An Unseen Enemy (Lillian's and Dorothy's film debuts).
Legendary director D.W. Griffith (INTOLERANCE) delivers another sweeping historical epic with this film, based on the d'Ennery and Corman play, THE TWO ORPHANS. Sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish are the girls who become separated in the streets of eighteenth century Paris during the dramatic upheavals of the French Revolution. As Henriette (Lillian Gish) searches for her blind adopted sister Louise (Dorothy Gish), she falls in love with a kind and concerned young member of the aristocracy, Chevalier (Joseph Schildkraut). Unfortunately their love is doomed by her commoner status, and his callous uncle (Frank Losee), who railroads her off to prison to keep them apart. The revolution occurs, and Henriette is liberated, but then there's more trouble when mob rule causes chaos in the streets, the guillotine awaits Chevalier, and Louise remains just out of reach.
Griffith captures the class injustice at the heart of this story by contrasting scenes of lavish parties at the houses of the nobles with the abject poverty of the beggars outside. The thrilling use of crowds and meticulous historical accuracy make this an epic comparable in scope and theme to BIRTH OF A NATION, which is how Griffith undoubtedly meant it. The film is silent, with tinted scenes and film score.
Director D.W. Griffith's silent historical saga features two orphaned sisters, one of whom is blind, living in eighteenth century Paris. The siblings are eventually torn apart; the sightless girl is brought up by criminals, the other by wanton, rich socialites. When they attempt to find each other once again, they run into two major obstacles: the French Revolution, and the guillotine's blade.
Essential Cinema |
Stage Play |
Theatrical release: December 28, 1921.
ORPHANS OF THE STORM was shot in Mamaroneck, New York, where director D.W. Griffith built a reconstruction of eighteenth century Paris.
The film is based on the play LES DEUX ORPHELINES (THE TWO ORPHANS) by Adolphe d'Ennery and Eugène Cormon.
According to the review in Variety, the film originally ran 170 minutes.