Broken Blossoms (1919)


"Ching-a-ling Chong Ching?" "What the Hell did you just say lady?"
"Ching-a-ling Chong Ching?" "What the Hell did you just say, lady?"

Genre: Silent Drama Romance

Starring: Lillian Gish (The Musketeers of Pig Alley; The Birth of A Nation), Richard Barthelmess (Only Angels Have Wings; Way Down East)

Directed By: D.W. Griffith (Orphans Of The Storm; Intolerance)

Overview: A pilgriming Buddhist goes to America with plans to teach temperance. An angry boxer beats on his adopted daughter. When the daughter flees, she finds solace in the Chinese man's shop.


Lillian Gish (below), is like some insane mistress of silent cinema. Sure she did some things that were questionable in their politically correct standings, but they were very early. I blame the direction and the era rather than the actress. I was actually quite impressed with the portrayals of all the actors. Quite impressive. Some really heavy and intense moments to be enjoyed.
Rating: 8


The look of East London, though low-budget, was well done. The opening China scenes were really well done, and the shop belonging to the 'Yellow Man' had some nice trinkets and such. Not a real visual spectacle, but with little touches like vignetting and background images on the script, it definately boosts the appeal.
Rating: 8


This actually impressed me very much. Not that it's poetry or anything, but there are some really floral little descriptions, rather than simply dialogue lines and such. I can't say I was too impressed at the phonetic spelling of the East London accented script, but at least they didn't do it for the chinese man's words. The theme of flowers was well maintained, and particularly because of the script.
Rating: 7


This story is nice and simple and you know from the start, just from the music really, that it's going to end bad. I'm not saying it's predictable, but I must say a couple of the scenes were really heart-wrenching. I quite enjoyed this story, it's honest.
Rating: 8


With more than just piano in the score, we're happy. As for the ever-present theme of flowers, that brings the score up a good notch. The racial slurs, though squint-inducing, really did a great job of placing us in the world of this pariah and his ward. Given the present day setting it was in, I was very impressed at how good this aspect of the film was.
Rating: 9

Gish the dish!
Gish the dish!

Overall Rating: 80% (Nothing Broken About This Production)

D.W. Griffith may select interesting and controversial topics for his films, but he's one of the trendsetters and his influence is eternal. Not only that but it turns out he actually makes some good movies (I was afraid after Birth of Nation). The more films I see from that 1001 Movies book, the more I see it as a good and valuable guide to the history of film. Number 10, about 900 left.

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while the movies is obvious for its 'politically incorrectness' it  is a very wonderful thing the way he depicts the delicate state of lilian gish and the rather innocent coming close of their faces, it is a pretty scene, especially after the way she has recently been treated by her own father....

I just read what she calls him "C....." ,  yow!!! hard to believe, I think the censors if they showed the whole text on tv should probably take some liberties with text tampering and change the words for our age.....It takes something away from the scene but imagining it with different words it is a beautiful scene otherwise...

Interesting point, but 'Chink' was the word that was the word that meant Chinese, that and 'Celestial'. Deadwood's a great show for historiacal accuracy in certain language.

As for censoring, silent film is more than entertainment, it's a gaze into an era's history. To alter or censor the history is to deny it. I find it better to accept it than to erase it - lest it repeat itself.

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