Griffith's Victorian perspective on illegitimacy (plus his view of maternity as 'woman's Gethsemane', etc) threatens for a while to make Way Down East the tract on monogamy that it announces itself as. It has two lifelines out of that morass: one is Lillian Gish, whose virtuoso performance makes the heroine's growth from gullible innocence to bitter experience credible; the other is Griffith's old standby, the reliable mechanism of suspense melodrama, here escalating busily and inventively right up to the famous ice-floe climax. The result is a good deal more interesting than camp, but Russ Meyer fans won't have any problem perceiving this as a rural prototype for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, with its classical simplicity, its comic relief yokels, its villainous squire, and its matchless moral.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Anthony Paul Kelly, DW Griffith|