Orphans of the Storm (1921)

249 mins | Melodrama | 28 December 1921

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HISTORY

The print viewed for this record was a 249-minute DVD version released by Image Entertainment.
       The film begins with an introduction and a post-Russian Revolution warning to American audiences, written on several title cards that appear to have been added to the original titles: “TIME.—Before and during the French Revolution. Our story is of two little orphans who suffer first through the tyranny—selfishness—of Kingly bosses, nobles and aristocrats. After the King’s Government falls they suffer with the rest of the people as much through the new Government, established by the pussy-footing Robespierre through Anarchy and Bolshevism. Strange that both these evil rulers were otherwise highly moral men except that they saw evil in all who did not THINK AS THEY DID. The lesson—the French Revolution RIGHTLY overthrew a BAD government. But we in America should be careful lest we with a GOOD government mistake fanatics for leaders and exchange our decent law and order for Anarchy and Bolshevism.”
       A title card offers the film’s prologue” “The de Vaudreys, a famous family of the nobility, outraged at the dishonor put upon them by the marriage of their daughter with a commoner—slay her husband.”
       An epilogue near the end wraps up the story: “Danton’s plea for mercy finally spreads throughout France until justice returns. Not until after Robespierre himself is guillotined does a REAL DEMOCRACY begin to dawn. Then are rights restored and do gardens bloom again.”
       The starring Gish sisters are not listed in the opening credits. They are introduced on title cards as “Louise--Miss Dorothy Gish” and “Henriette--Miss Lillian Gish.”
       Two different title cards refer to “Maximilien Robespierre as a “pussy-footer,” and one defines the term by further ... More Less

The print viewed for this record was a 249-minute DVD version released by Image Entertainment.
       The film begins with an introduction and a post-Russian Revolution warning to American audiences, written on several title cards that appear to have been added to the original titles: “TIME.—Before and during the French Revolution. Our story is of two little orphans who suffer first through the tyranny—selfishness—of Kingly bosses, nobles and aristocrats. After the King’s Government falls they suffer with the rest of the people as much through the new Government, established by the pussy-footing Robespierre through Anarchy and Bolshevism. Strange that both these evil rulers were otherwise highly moral men except that they saw evil in all who did not THINK AS THEY DID. The lesson—the French Revolution RIGHTLY overthrew a BAD government. But we in America should be careful lest we with a GOOD government mistake fanatics for leaders and exchange our decent law and order for Anarchy and Bolshevism.”
       A title card offers the film’s prologue” “The de Vaudreys, a famous family of the nobility, outraged at the dishonor put upon them by the marriage of their daughter with a commoner—slay her husband.”
       An epilogue near the end wraps up the story: “Danton’s plea for mercy finally spreads throughout France until justice returns. Not until after Robespierre himself is guillotined does a REAL DEMOCRACY begin to dawn. Then are rights restored and do gardens bloom again.”
       The starring Gish sisters are not listed in the opening credits. They are introduced on title cards as “Louise--Miss Dorothy Gish” and “Henriette--Miss Lillian Gish.”
       Two different title cards refer to “Maximilien Robespierre as a “pussy-footer,” and one defines the term by further calling him “a splendid regulator of other people’s morals and affairs.” The reference is to William E. Johnson, a former undercover federal law officer whose campaigns against alcohol earned him the nickname “Pussy-Foot,” which means “to tread or move warily or stealthily.” When Orphans of the Storm was made, Johnson was a prominent member of the Anti-Saloon League and recognized as one of the main supporters of Prohibition. The comparison of the 1789 French Revolution to the Bolshevism of early twentieth century Russia was relevant in 1922, as the U.S. was recovering from World War I.
       TThe 12 May 1921 Wid’s Daily announced that D. W. Griffith had started rehearsals for his new film and expected “about four or five months on the production.” The working title was The Two Orphans, the same as “Kate Claxton’s famous play” from which it was adapted, according to an advertisement that ran in industry publications, including the 31 May 1921 Wid’s Daily. Actually, Claxton was not a playwright, but rather an actress who portrayed both “Henriette” and “Louise” in the Broadway play for many years, and acquired the American screen rights to Adolphe Philippe D’Ennery and Eugene Cormon’s 1875 play Les deux orphelines. Griffith’s deal contained the stipulation that “all other producers” were restrained “from distributing any film” using characters or episodes from the play, in accordance with a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, 7th New York District, by plaintiffs The Selig Polyscope Company and Kate E. Stephenson vs. defendants William Fox and The Fox Film Company. The decision prevented the distributor Nathan & Semarad from releasing a German-made The Two Orphans in the U.S. with new English subtitles, concurrent with Griffith’s version, and Fox reissuing its 1915 adaptation of the play titled The Two Orphans (see entry), directed by Herbert Brenon and starring Theda Bara and Jean Sothern. An earlier, shorter film of the same title was released in 1907 (see entry), and the Warwick Trading Company released a scene from the play under the title A Duel with Knives in 1903 (see entry).
       Filming was set to begin “this week” at D. W. Griffith’s studio in Mamaroneck, Long Island, NY, the 24 May 1921 Wid’s Daily reported. The 15 Jun 1921 Wid’s Daily noted that actress Julia Arthur had been “engaged” to play the part of the “Countess de Linieres,” but she was later replaced. In the 26 Nov 1921 Moving Picture World, writer Edward Weitzel described the Mamaroneck lot: “The city by the Seine which Griffith has built on the shores of Long Island Sound is an impressive collection of ancient structures, with the grim old Bastille facing the fountain in the center of the square and the keen knife of the Guillotine gleaming in the sunlight at the lower end of the street.”
       As filming neared completion and the contracts of several principal actors were set to expire on 20 Nov 1921, D. W. Griffith took out a $25,000 insurance policy to cover renegotiations in case his film did not meet the deadline, according to the 12 Nov 1921 Moving Picture World. Completion depended upon a snowstorm in Mamaroneck covering the ground for “important scenes.” The article noted that it was the first time an insurance policy was purchased for a storm to occur, rather than the other way around.
       In order to “avoid even greater confusion with three other films” titled The Two Orphans, Griffith retitled his production Orphans of the Storm in time for its opening at New York City’s Apollo Theatre on 30 Dec 1921, according to the 31 Dec 1921 Moving Picture World. The last-minute change was expected to cost Griffith “tens of thousands of dollars” by forcing the “scrapping of all his publicity and advertising.”
       An article in the 11 Feb 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review described Griffiths adjustments to Orphans of the Storm following early screenings. It had been “shortened and changed in some details,” in response to audience reactions, and new scenes had been added. According to contemporary sources, a twelve-reel, 12,000 ft. version of the film was released 30 Apr 1922.
       The reviewer in the 31 Dec 1921 Moving Picture World commented that Griffith had shifted the emphasis from Louise to Henriette in his adaptation of the play, and relied on Thomas Carlyle’s 1837 The French Revolution: A History and Charles Dickens’s 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, rather than on the “D’Ennery melodrama” for the film’s atmosphere and environment.
       Film Year Book 1922-1923 called Orphans of the Storm one of “The Ten Best” pictures of 1922. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald
24 Sep 1921
pp. 60-64.
Exhibitors Trade Review
28 Jan 1922
p. 587.
Exhibitors Trade Review
11 Feb 1922
p. 735.
Film Daily
8 Jan 1922
p. 3.
Film Year Book
1922-1923
p. 349.
Moving Picture World
12 Nov 1921
p. 192.
Moving Picture World
26 Nov 1921
p. 399.
Moving Picture World
31 Dec 1921
p. 1069, 1125.
New York Times
29 Jan 1922
Section 6, p. 2.
Photoplay
Jul 1922
p. 93.
Picture-Play Magazine
Nov 1921
pp. 18-21, 85.
Variety
6 Jan 1922
p. 42.
Wid's Daily
12 May 1921
p. 1.
Wid's Daily
24 May 1921.
---
Wid's Daily
15 Jun 1921
p. 1.
Wid's Daily
31 May 1921.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Asst photog
Sun-Light Arc Lamps
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Tech dir
FILM EDITORS
Assembly
Assembly
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
SOURCES
LITERARY
Adapted from The Two Orphans by A. D'Ennery, through arrangement with Kate Claxton. [Based on the play Les deux orphelines by Adolphe Philippe D'Ennery and Eugene Cormon (1875), as adapted by N. Hart Jackson and Albert Marshman.]
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Two Orphans
Release Date:
28 December 1921
Premiere Information:
Boston premiere: 28 December 1921
New York opening: 30 December 1921
Production Date:
late May - late November 1921
Copyright Claimant:
D. W. Griffith, Inc.
Copyright Date:
12 December 1921
Copyright Number:
LP18035
Physical Properties:
Silent
Color
Gevaert Colored Film
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
249
Length(in feet):
13,500
Length(in reels):
14 , 12 , 10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In eighteenth century Paris, France, the daughter of the aristocratic de Vaudreys marries a commoner and has his baby, but her family kills her husband and snatches the infant from her arms. She scribbles a note—“Her name is Louise, Save her”—on a piece of paper and tucks it into the baby’s locket. Wrapped in a blanket, along with a bag of coins, the infant is placed on the snowy “foundling steps” of Notre Dame cathedral. Soon afterward, an impoverished man named Jean Girard brings his own infant, Henriette, to the steps, but seeing the trembling Louise lying there, he has second thoughts, gathers both babies in his arms, and carries them home. He and his wife are overjoyed to find the bag of coins, and opening the locket, they learn the baby’s name. The two infants, Louise and Henriette, grow up together as sisters outside of Paris. Meanwhile, Louise’s birth mother is forced to marry the Count de Linieres, Paris’s powerful Prefect of Police, who knows nothing of her past. Living at the de Vaudrey estate in 1789, the count and countess are visited by one of the tenants, Jean Setain. He is also known as “Jacques-Forget-Not,” because as a young man he saw the de Vaudrey patriarch torture his father, as the young Chevalier de Vaudrey watched approvingly, and he will never forget, nor forgive. The count refuses to relieve Jacques of his debt, and the peasant leaves in anger. Meanwhile, the Duc D’Orleans, cousin of King Louis XVI, entertains political dissidents in the gardens of the Royal Palace. Among them is Danton, a struggling lawyer, who meets U.S. Ambassador Thomas Jefferson and tells him the American Congress ... +


In eighteenth century Paris, France, the daughter of the aristocratic de Vaudreys marries a commoner and has his baby, but her family kills her husband and snatches the infant from her arms. She scribbles a note—“Her name is Louise, Save her”—on a piece of paper and tucks it into the baby’s locket. Wrapped in a blanket, along with a bag of coins, the infant is placed on the snowy “foundling steps” of Notre Dame cathedral. Soon afterward, an impoverished man named Jean Girard brings his own infant, Henriette, to the steps, but seeing the trembling Louise lying there, he has second thoughts, gathers both babies in his arms, and carries them home. He and his wife are overjoyed to find the bag of coins, and opening the locket, they learn the baby’s name. The two infants, Louise and Henriette, grow up together as sisters outside of Paris. Meanwhile, Louise’s birth mother is forced to marry the Count de Linieres, Paris’s powerful Prefect of Police, who knows nothing of her past. Living at the de Vaudrey estate in 1789, the count and countess are visited by one of the tenants, Jean Setain. He is also known as “Jacques-Forget-Not,” because as a young man he saw the de Vaudrey patriarch torture his father, as the young Chevalier de Vaudrey watched approvingly, and he will never forget, nor forgive. The count refuses to relieve Jacques of his debt, and the peasant leaves in anger. Meanwhile, the Duc D’Orleans, cousin of King Louis XVI, entertains political dissidents in the gardens of the Royal Palace. Among them is Danton, a struggling lawyer, who meets U.S. Ambassador Thomas Jefferson and tells him the American Congress is “the kind of government we want here.” Later, as he watches pampered aristocrats ignore hungry peasants in front of a bakery, the indignant Danton is surprised to see the Chevalier de Vaudrey pass out baguettes. Danton nods approval and shakes the young chevalier’s hand. Elsewhere, the plague has orphaned the two sisters, and left Louise blind. Henriette wants to look for a cure in Paris, but Louise fears separation. She makes Henriette swear never to marry until she retains her eyesight and approves of the groom. In a market near Paris’s Pont Neuf, Mother Frochard, known as “La Fevehard,” and her sons, Pierre and Jacques, beg in the streets. She and Jacques beat Pierre for failing to bring in sufficient earnings. Outside Paris, the coach carrying Henriette and Louise breaks down, blocking the carriage of the Marquis de Praille. As the coach is repaired, the middle-aged marquis is drawn to the beautiful Henriette. She resists his advances, but “naively confides” hat she and Louise are to be met by a family friend, Monsieur Martin, at the Paris coach house. As the marquis rides ahead into Paris, he tells his minion, La Fleur, to abduct Henriette and bring her to his palace fete later that night. La Fleur befriends Monsieur Martin at the coach house, and informs him the coach will be late. Offering Martin a glass of spirits, La Fleur pours a potion into the cup that knocks him unconscious. The sisters arrive and wait until nightfall. La Fleur and two men abduct Henriette, leaving Louise to stumble blindly, calling out for her sister. At the Marquis de Praille’s palace, aristocrats feast, while dozens of peasants gather outside the gate, hoping for table scraps. The Chevalier de Vaudrey arrives, and tells the marquis, with a wink, that they should enjoy their privileges now, because not much time is left. Meanwhile, the sightless Louise nearly tumbles into the Seine River, near Pont Neuf, but is saved by Pierre Frochard. He wants to protect her, but his mother pushes him aside and, when Louise confesses she has no friends, claims she will take care of her. Over Pierre’s objections, Mother Frochard takes Louise to their basement hovel. When Louise refuses to beg for her, she is confined to the cellar. Back at the palace, the Marquis de Praille’s servants bring a divan, carrying the sleeping Henriette. Awakening, she asks for Louise, but the revelers ignore her pleas. At first, the Chevalier de Vaudrey thinks the young woman is part of the evening’s amusements, but when she calls for “a man of honor,” he realizes her plight and rescues her. The marquis challenges him to a duel, but the chevalier wounds the older man and leaves with Henriette. He takes her to a lodging house and pays for her room. As the chevalier leaves, he cannot stop himself from kissing her, and apologizes, but realizes he is smitten. In the morning, Count de Linieres is outraged by the news of his nephew’s duel with the Marquis de Praille, and orders Picard, the chevalier’s valet and friend, to keep an eye on him. Henriette awakens and searches the streets for Louise. Elsewhere, Louise agrees to beg for Mother Frochard, hoping Henriette will find her. Count de Linieres refuses the chevalier’s request to involve the police in Louise’s disappearance, and berates him for getting involved with “common people.” Later, the count visits King Louis XVI and arranges a wedding between his nephew and a noblewoman, but when he informs the Chevalier de Vaudrey of his upcoming nuptials, the young man refuses, because he is in love with Henriette. Elsewhere, Danton and his fellow penniless lawyer, Maximilien Robespierre, who lives in Henriette’s boarding house, see her talking with people on the street, and Danton recognizes her as the girl who has been searching for her lost sister. Danton is incensed by her mistreatment at the hand of aristocrats, but Robespierre warns against his interest in the young woman. Later, Danton encourages revolution to people in the street. Several royalists are alarmed, and wound him during a sword fight. Danton rushes to Robespierre’s lodgings and, by coincidence, ducks through Henriette’s open door. She saves him by pointing the pursuing royalists to another floor. Henriette insists on bandaging Danton’s wound and allowing him to stay the night. In the morning, Robespierre suspects Danton is inside Henriette’s room and tries to push his way in, but she slams the door in his face. He hides until he sees Danton leave. Outside Notre Dame, a doctor from La Force notices Louise begging and tells Mother Frochard to bring the girl to him, as her blindness may be curable. However, Frochard tells Louise her blindness is hopeless, and takes away her homemade shawl to make her tremble in the cold. Later, the chevalier returns to Henriette with no news of Louise, unaware that Picard is following him. The chevalier offers Henriette a betrothal ring, but she refuses, even though she loves him, because the marriage would ruin him socially. Besides, she must find Louise for her approval. Meanwhile, Countess de Linieres leaves Notre Dame, as her estranged daughter, Louise, begs for alms. The countess is stirred by a strange sympathy for the blind girl, but Frochard pulls the girl away, claiming her as her own. Giving money to Louise, the countess returns home, and her nephew, the chevalier, requests that she visit the young woman he has chosen for his wife. As she leaves, her husband, the count, with the authority of Prefect of Police, commands the chevalier to agree to his arranged royal marriage or be exiled to a “fortress prison.” When the young man refuses, soldiers take him away. At Henriette’s boarding house, the countess tells the girl that marriage to the chevalier is impossible. She sees a pillow with Louise’s name embroidered on it, and mentions that the name is dear to her. Henriette promises that if the countess finds Louise, she will follow her wishes. She describes how Louise is really not her sister, but rather a foundling. As Henriette displays the locket, the countess realizes that Louise is her child. At that moment, Henriette hears beggars on the street, recognizes the singing voice, and goes to the balcony. She is overjoyed to see Louise, but before she can run downstairs, Count de Linieres arrives with soldiers and arrests her. Frochard rushes Louise away and returns her to the cellar. Henriette is taken to the Catholic “House of Fallen Women.” The chevalier is locked in a prison outside of Paris. Meanwhile, peasants prepare for revolution. Henriette tells the mother superior about her blind sister, whom the attending doctor recalls seeing with the beggar Frochard near her home on Rue de Brissac. At the de Vaudrey estate, the countess confesses her past sins to her forgiving husband. Jacques-Forget-Not and his men shout “Death to tyrants” and “Down with the Bastille,” and the silver-tongued Danton convinces soldiers to join them. As war rages, Danton opens the House of Fallen Women, allowing the chevalier’s valet, Picard, to find Henriette and deliver her lover’s message. Aristocrats are rounded up and killed, prompting the count and countess to flee before Jacques-Forget-Not arrives for vengeance. Going to Frochard to demand her sister’s freedom, Henriette sees the woman wearing Louise’s shawl, but the hag tells her the girl died and sends her away. When Jacques-Frochard claims Louise for himself, brother Pierre engages him in a knife fight, wounds him, and escapes with Louise. With the defeat of the monarchy, Robespierre becomes the head of the deadly Committee of Public Safety, which condemns aristocrats and their protectors to the guillotine. One of the new judges is Jacques-Forget-Not. Despite the carnage, the Chevalier de Vaudrey returns to Paris in peasant garb, and is spotted by Jacques-Forget-Not. As the chevalier and Henriette embrace, Jacques’ men arrest them. The couple is condemned to the guillotine. Henriette sees Louise sitting with Pierre and calls to her, but she is carried away on a death cart. Pierre and Louise follow on foot. Danton asks for a hearing and delivers an oratory about compassion, earning a pardon for the prisoners. He rides with his men to the guillotine, where Henriette is being led up the stairs. Pierre Frochard runs onto the gallows with a knife and stops the executioner long enough for Danton and his men to arrive with the pardon. Pierre and the chevalier are also set free. The sisters kiss and embrace, and Danton, disregarding his own feelings toward Henriette, turns her over to the chevalier. Sanity returns to French society. When the doctor restores Louise’s sight, she marries Pierre and blesses Henriette’s marriage to the chevalier. The Countess de Linieres reunites with her daughter.
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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