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"Orphans of the Storm" (1921) director D. W. Griffith, cinematographer Billy Bitzer

"Orphans of the Storm" is a historical drama directed by D. W. Griffith starring Lillian Gish. This film illustrates the work of cinematographer Billy Bitzer, a star of Silent Hall of Fame. 

The events in the film occur before and during the French revolution of 1789, which was caused by the extreme societal inequalities, with aristocracy enjoying unlimited privileges and the common people deprived of human rights and often doomed to starvation.

A young woman with an aristocratic background becomes the victim of her own kin. After she marries a "commoner" her "noble" relatives decide to save the family honor from disgrace by performing a very ignoble act - murdering her husband and taking her baby daughter away from her. The baby by the name of Louise (played by Dorothy Gish) is left in the street, but is lucky to be saved from freezing to death by a poor man. He raises Louise together with his daughter Henriette (Lillian Gish).

After their parents die the two sisters are raised in the north of the country. A plague causes Louise to lose her eyesight and she becomes fully dependent on her sister. Later on as young ladies they decide to make a trip to Paris to repair Louise's vision.

The big city is very unkind to them. A lustful aristocrat kidnaps Henriette and Louise is left alone and helpless. She quickly becomes the victim of an evil woman, who makes her sing and beg for money in the streets. At the same time Henriette is taken to the nobleman's palace. She is only saved from his orgies by a young aristocrat with compassion for common people. After that she fruitlessly searches for her sister Louise.

On the verge of the revolution its main leader Danton is chased by the king's secret service. He is wounded, but manages to escape, finding himself in Henriette's home. She nurses him back to health, but the incident is used against her by the city's police chief. He wants to prevent her marriage to the young nobleman, his nephew, by sending her to jail and him to exile.

By that time commoners led by Danton storm the Bastille and in the ensuing chaos and terror Henriette and her man are arrested and sentenced to die on the guillotine.

The film has an outstanding 8.1 rating in IMDB.

Directed by               D. W. Griffith
Produced by             D. W. Griffith
Scenario by              D.W. Griffith          
Based on                 The Two Orphans by Adolphe-Philippe D'Ennery and Eugène Cormon
Starring                    Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish
Cinematography        Billy Bitzer
Editing by                 James Smith and Rose Smith
Distributed by            United Artists
Release date             December 28, 1921
Running time             150 min.
Country                     United States
Language                  Silent film, English intertitles

You can see a slideshow of stills from this film and other interesting stuff on our website silent-hall-of-fame.org.

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