Today is the anniversary of the release date of D.W. Griffith’s first movie as director The Adventures of Dollie (1908)
The film contains all of the qualities in utero that we associate with his best known masterwork, The Birth of a Nation: advances in story telling, sentimentality, and unfortunate racial attitudes. The Adventures of Dollie concerns a band of Roma (then called Gypsies) who snatch a pretty little white girl for the purposes, apparently, of slavery. Yet the climax to The Adventures of Dollie is the sort of contrivance that audiences loved best about Griffith’s brand of cinematic melodrama, and the reason why it was so successful at the box office (and still is, in an updated form). The little girl is placed by the bad guys in a barrel, which then falls into the river, where it naturally makes a beeline for a waterfall. Such hair-pulling finishes were a Griffith stock in trade.
Incredibly it’s still extant for us to look at — here it is!
For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etcFor more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.