To coincide with the 121st anniversary of Lillian Gish’s birth last week, I’m going to review “Broken Blossoms” for my fourth movie review to be featured on Monty and Desiree’s classic cinema website.
Lillian Gish coruscates the screen in this perennial D.W. Griffith silent classic set in the seedy Lime House district of London. “Broken Blossoms” tells the story of Lucy Burrows ( Lillian Gish ) a frail waif, who resides with her brutal and calumniating father ( Donald Crisp ). Disenchanted with her ignominious existence and continuous abuse at home, Lucy longs to escape her execrable lifestyle for a better way of life. One night after being repudiated by her father, Lucy collapses at the doorway of an Oriental shopkeeper Cheng Huan’s ( Richard Barthelmess ) shop. Cheng takes her in, and Lucy finds sanctuary in the congenial room above his shop. With nothing but love for Lucy, Cheng provides her with proper clothing and food. For the first time in her life Lucy now experiences being in the proper care of somebody with altruistic nature. Unfortunately that doesn’t last. When Lucy’s father discovers that Lucy is with a foreigner, tragic consequences prevail.
I’ve always been an ardent fan of Lillian Gish, and I feel that she delivers her most heart rending performance of her career with her sensitive portrayal of the impuissant Lucy Burrows. While I love silent movies, I consider this to be my favorite silent film of all time, and for people that are not accustomed to silent movies, I recommend “Broken Blossoms” to be their stepping stone into the world of silent cinema.
Quotes from film:
Lucy Burrows: “Don’t do it, Daddy! You’ll hit me once too often, and then they’ll hang yer.”
Battling Burrows: “Put a smile on yer face, can’t yer?”
Lillian Gish: Born Lillian Diana Gish on October 14th, 1893 in Springfield, Ohio. Died: February 27th, 1993. Age 99, in New York.
Richard Barthelmess: Born May 9th, 1895 in New York. Died: August 17th, 1963 in Southampton, New York.
Donald Crisp: Born George William Crisp on July 27th, 1882 in Bow, London. Died: May 25th, 1974 in Van Nuys, California.