INTOLERANCE (1916) B/W "silent" 163m dir: D.W. Griffith
w/Lillian Gish and:
1. "The Modern Story (The Mother and the Law)": Mae Marsh, Robert Harron, Sam de Grasse, Vera Lewis, Ralph Lewis, Miriam Cooper, Lloyd Ingraham, Monte Blue, Edward Dillon, Tod Browning, Walter Long
2. "The Judean Story (The Nazarene)": Howard Gaye, Lillian Langdon, Gunther von Ritzan, Erich von Stroheim, Olga Grey, Bessie Love
3. "The Medieval Story": Margery Wilson, Eugene Pallette, Spottiswoode Aitkin, Frank Bennett, Josephine Crowell, Ruth Handforth
4. "The Fall of Babylon": Constance Talmadge, Elmer Clifton, Alfred Paget, Elmo Lincoln, Seena Owen, Tully Marshall, George Siegmann
Four interconnected stories of injustice in different historical periods are directed with skill and lavishness by the great D.W. Griffith. A "silent" classic.
From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "Intolerance is subtitled Love's Struggle Through the Ages and the theme is developed by constant cross-cutting between the separate stories (linked by the symbolic images of Lillian Gish, as The Woman Who Rocks the Cradle) until, at the end 'they seem to flow together in one common flood of humanity' (original program brochure).
"'The Mother and the Law' was conceived and almost entirely produced in 1914, immediately after The Birth of a Nation was made. It was originally intended as a separate feature and was later released as such. Griffith based the story on the records of the Stielow murder case and a report of the Federal Industrial Commission that had condemned 'the Pinkertons' (the Thugs in the film) --- a militant, private army paid by industrialists to break up strikes (and who sometimes even killed the workers). 'The Mother and the Law' is a powerful work; its courageous social criticism is directly opposite to the attitudes in The Birth of a Nation, even though it was made the same year.
"The sequence of Belshazzar's feast alone cost $650,000 and the sets are the highest, largest and vastest in area ever constructed for a film. [It was these sets that David O. Selznick burned for the filming of the destruction of Atlanta for his epic GONE WITH THE WIND.] Four thousand extras and and countless specially trained horses and elephants were used in this sequence. For them, and for the 2,500 extras in 'The Medieval Story' and the 3,500 in 'The Judean Story,' a special railway line was laid to transport food and materials and a camp was constructed to house several thousand people.
"Griffith made Intolerance without a written scenario or shooting script and shot the film without recourse to a single written note. It took him only two months to edit the film from the 300,000 feet of negative he shot.
"The style of Intolerance is essentially based on parallel action and cross-cutting , unifying the action taking place in four different times and ten different places. The last section, in which quick cutting is used extensively, is a masterpiece which, nevertheless, must have been difficult for the general public to comprehend.
"The four stories are not of equal merit and the spectacular Babylonian sequence is not the most successful. To film the feast of Belshazzar in its entirety, Griffith photographed it from an observation balloon, one of the few uses of the moving camera in a film whose style is almost entirely based on editing.
"Its principle failure is Griffith's attempt to use a badly defined theme to unify four stories as different as an American judicial error in 1914, the fall of Babylon, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and the story of Christ. In the last analysis, this inspired but uneven film is overburdened by the 'massive grandeur' of Belshazzar's feast.
"When Intolerance was shown in the USSR in 1919 (re-edited and retitled to emphasize the ideological content) it exercised a profound influence on the young Soviet film makers, Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Kuleshov --- not only because of its cinematic techniques but also because of 'The Modern Story' depicting a strike and its brutal suppression. Intolerance had its premiere on September 5, 1916, advertised as A Sun Play of the Ages. However, it ran for only 22 weeks at the same theater at which The Birth of a Nation had run for 44 weeks. The release pattern was the same elsewhere: box-office records in the opening weeks followed by a rapid dwindling of attendance.
"The total cost of production and publicity was two million dollars (MGM rebudgeted the film in 1936 and estimated production costs at ten to twelve million dollars). Because of the film's relative commercial failure and because the entry of the USA into the war in 1917 conflicted with the film's pacifist attitudes, Griffith, who had largely financed the film himself, was financially ruined and was paying debts on the film until his death [in Hollywood in 1948]."