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The Scarlet Letter (1926).

March 20, 2007

The Scoop:
Even into the 1920s, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most famous novel was still being censored in many parts of the country, so mounting a film version was no mean feat. Star Lillian Gish was the driving force behind getting this film made, and it was her years of persistence in petitioning studio executives and local morality groups that finally paid off in the release of this film. And she didn’t stop there; she followed through with one of her finest performances of her career. Her interpretation of Hester Prynne is still vivid and moving more than eight decades later.

In addition, this adaptation by writer Frances Marion and director Victor Sjöström boasts gorgeous cinematography and the resotred print from 2000 has a wonderful new score by Lisa Ann Miller and Mark Northam. Forget Demi Moore — Gish’s Hester Prynne is perhaps the definitive screen interpretation of that classic character (particularly during the devestating punishment scene), making this one of the greatest silents ever made. Even Lars Hanson’s occasional overemoting as Arthur Dimmesdale cannot dampen the power of this movie.

Best Line:
“It would be pleasant, sir, to walk beside thee and hear thee condemn me for my sins.”

Side Note:
Before coming to MGM to make this movie, Gish had previously directed “Remodeling Her Husband” (1920), starring her sister Dorothy.

Companion Viewing:
“Greed” (1924).


Take a Look:
You can stream the whole film from Google Video.

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