What Drink Did – 1909

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Kitty
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What Drink Did – 1909

Post by Kitty » Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:59 am

This is another D.W. Griffith Biograph short. This 13 minute short very much surprised me. I didn’t know the story of Ten Nights in a Barroom, on which this story is loosely based, so I was impressed by the story. I was especially impressed with the little girl, Gladys Egan’s acting.
A working man with a loving wife and two adorable little girls initially refuses a drink with his workmates during lunch. Apparently this man has an addictive personality, because under peer pressure, he decides to give in and have one beer. And then another. And then another. When he comes home drunk his family is distraught. The next day he decides to hang out with the boys at the bar, and when he doesn’t come home at the expected hour, the wife (Florence Lawrence) sends out the older of the girls (Gladys Egan) to go out and find him. Gladys Egan’s performance is the most memorable. She conveys exactly how a little girl might feel to go out all alone through the town to check the frequent places her father might be. Being turned out by all places, she finally enters the one place she didn’t want to believe her father was-- the bar. She tries to get daddy’s attention three times, each time being brushed off with a silent ‘Go away kid, you’re botherin’ me’ type gesture. Little Gladys returns home, and seeing her mother and sister so sad and distraught, she gets up the courage to try again. Out she goes to the bar where dad is playing cards and drinking, and again tries to persuade him to come home to his family. Three times she tries again, but this last time he pushes her down to the ground. The other men start defending her, and the waiter gets angry and produces a pistol. Just as the little girl is returning to her father, the gun goes off and accidentally hits her instead of the father. The tyke’s extraordinary acting is beautiful and not over-the-top, and down she falls dead. The man after a few seconds realizes what just happened, and grieves. In the next scene he resolves to quit drinking, although the scar will always remain that he was the reason his oldest daughter is no longer with them.
The adults in this film’s personalities were not very developed, but Gladys Egan’s character said more than any little girl I have seen in just a few minutes of screen time. We know that she has the confidence to creep around town looking for her father, despite being turned out all over the place, and we see she has a heart and a sense of responsibility by going out on her own the second time. This is a persistent little girl who did not need to die.
This tale is labeled as an over-dramatic cautionary tale on the evils of drinking, but I really do not agree about the former of that statement. These circumstances are very believable-- it’s not like aliens took over and kidnapped the child. These things portrayed in the film could happen. It is more a cautionary tale of drinking to excess and neglecting your real-life duties.
Rating 7/10
You trying to tell me you didn't hear that shriek? That was something trying to get out of its premature grave, and I don't want to be here when it does. - Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

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donnie
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Re: What Drink Did – 1909

Post by donnie » Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:32 pm

I rewatched this. I am impressed by it, too. Although it is a standard melodrama, it does ring true, and is still quite affecting, though the acting is a little exaggerated, though not nearly as much so as in much of that era.

The thing that’s amazing: the ability that Griffith had developed by 1909 in telling a story effectively on the screen. The skillful cutting between the scenes—something we take for granted now in everything we watch—had already been almost perfected just a year after Griffith had started directing. The film is tight with very little if any wasted footage. When viewing many of the films from that era, you think, “Boy, that could have used some editing”—not here.

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Kitty
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Re: What Drink Did – 1909

Post by Kitty » Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:10 pm

Yes, he really was great. Some of the films that remain of his don't do him justice, but the ones that are fully intact are really good examples. I think a lot of Biographs had a problem with confusing the viewer. Even back in the day in those magazines, the editor talks about movies that are hard to understand, so it's not just our modern minds, it's really with the directing. And when we get a well-told tale and simple enough stories, they are more effective than the epics that have been made. Oh, and one last thing. That is why I like Griffith's 'rural dramas' the best. Simple, sweet, effective. :)
You trying to tell me you didn't hear that shriek? That was something trying to get out of its premature grave, and I don't want to be here when it does. - Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

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donnie
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Re: What Drink Did – 1909

Post by donnie » Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:13 pm

Yes, I like the 'rural dramas' much the best, too.

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