Greta Garbo and Victor Sjostrom

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Scott Lord Silent Film: Lonely Villa (D.W. Griffith, Biograph, 1909)

In her autobiography, Lillian Gish discusses D.W. Griffith's use of shot length in "The Lonely Villa". Linda Arvidson, wife of D.W. Griffith, in her autobiography "When the Movies Were Young" claims that "The Lonely Villa" was the second film in which Mary Pickford had appeared, her having made her motion picture debut in the earlier "The Violin Maker of Cerona". Mack Sennett had gleaned the plot to "The Lonely Villa" from a newspaper.

Author Stanley J. Solomon, in his volume The Film Idea sees "The Lonely Villa" as only the beginning of the development of new film techniques by D.W. Griffith, almost intimating that there would be a synthesis of Griffith as an autuer and new developments in filmmaking would combine. "Although Griffith was working now with materials that could not be effectively duplicated onstage, 'The Lonely Villa' was not really totally cinematic. Griffith's understanding of spatial relationships was still limited; to get a person from one point to another, Griffith shows him moving there in stages." The passage is particularly refreshing because through it Solomon imparts to us where the title of his volume The Film Idea comes from and how it is his point of departure. He writes,"But Griffith learned quickly that a meaningful narrative must be embedded in a total film idea. Otherwise, when the surface movement is the whole film idea, the camera functions simply as a recording device and most of its expressive possiblilities are relegated to either unimportance or mere technique."

In her volume her volume D.W. Griffith, American film master, Iris Barry sees the film technique used by D. W. Griffith developed quickly during a short period of time, "In The Lonely Villa many scenes begin quietly with the entrance of the characters into the set, significant action follows this slow-paced start only belatedly. In The Lonedale Operator there is no leisurely entrance, the characters are already in mid-action when each shot begins and there is no waste footage- no deliberation in getting on with the story when haste and excitement are what is needed." Barry adds, "At no time did he use a scenario. But there was considerable protest when, quite early in his directorial career, he insisted on retaking unsatisfactory scenes and succedded in gaining permission to do so in The Lonely Villa. Bitzer and others were aghast at his extravagence with film."

Silent Film D. W. Griffith Biograph Film Company

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