Cast & Crew
D. W. Griffith
After a prologue which shows director D. W. Griffith setting up a camera in the British front lines under the auspices of the British War Official Cinematograph Committee, meeting war correspondents and shaking hands with David Lloyd George, Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing Street in London, the story begins. In a little village in northern France, Marie Stephenson falls in love with Douglas Gordon Hamilton, the eldest of an American artist's four sons. The romance is threatened when Marie sees a street singer called the Little Disturber embracing Douglas, but he soon explains that his heart really belongs to Marie and the two are reunited. The Little Disturber finally accepts the attentions of Monsieur Cuckoo, while Douglas and Marie become engaged. With the outbreak of World War I, Douglas, Monsieur Cuckoo and the village carpenter join the French army, and while they fight on a nearby battlefield, the village is shelled and occupied by the Germans. After the deaths of her mother and grandfather, Marie, demented, wanders through the ruined village in her wedding gown until she finds Douglas lying wounded and unconscious on the ground. Although Marie believes him dead, he eventually regains his health at the Red Cross hospital and later infiltrates the German lines as a spy. In the village, the Germans brutally mistreat the townspeople, and Douglas' mother finally collapses and dies. Douglas returns to the village and hides in Marie's room, but is discovered by a German sergeant, who reports his presence to the brutal and lecherous von Strohm. The Germans are about to enter the room when the French retake the village and rescue Douglas and Marie.
D. W. Griffith
George A. Siegmann
Anna Mae Walthall
Mrs. Mary Gish
Hearts of the World
Once in England, Griffith made the rounds, meeting with members of the British War Office and conferring with famous writers like H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who supposedly agreed that his best contribution to the war might be "a drama of humanity photographed in the battle area." Griffith topped off his tour with a visit to 10 Downing Street for a meeting with Prime Minister Lloyd George who reportedly urged Griffith to produce a film that would "make up America's mind to go to war for us." But by the April 7th premiere of Intolerance, the idea of an American aimed propaganda film was rendered superfluous since the U.S. entered the war a day earlier on April 6. Still, Griffith's romanticized meeting with Lloyd George made its way into Hollywood legend and into Hearts of the World. Griffith filmed himself shaking hands with the Prime Minister and used the shot as a prologue to the movie. Subtitles made it appear that Lloyd George was wishing Griffith well as he set forth to make his film.
Questions have also been raised as to just where Griffith filmed Hearts of the World. Though promoted as if it were filmed in the front lines, Griffith was the only member of the crew allowed anywhere near the trenches. Even his usual cameraman, G.W. (full name Johann Gottlob Wilhelm) Bitzer, was refused entry into France because of his very Germanic name. Instead, Griffith was forced to rely on an army issued cameraman for any real life footage he took away. But apparently this attempt was less than successful. Back in the U.S., Griffith paid $16,000 for German army footage from a Captain von Kleinschmidt, a lecturer who had been accused of espionage. In the end, the movie was a composite, with some real war scenes and some staged dramatizations. And for Griffith's purposes, it was probably just as well. On screen, the documentary footage played out less dramatically than Griffith's own interpretation of war. As he later said, "viewed as a drama, the war is in some ways disappointing." The setting was a composite also. Parts of the movie were filmed in England, including the peaceful prewar exteriors. And bits of the war footage from France were inserted into the battle scenes. But a great deal of Hearts of the World was shot in Hollywood, the same lot where Intolerance was made doubling for France. Karl Brown, the cinematographer on Intolerance and second camera operator on Hearts of the World summed up the on-screen mosaic well, saying, "a gun was fired in France and its shell shattered on a wall on the Intolerance lot."
For Hearts of the World, Griffith played up the film's supposed authenticity and its depiction of life in France wherever he could. Even the credits reinforce the international flavor, listing scenario writer M. Gaston de Tolignac and a translation by Captain Victor Marier. Both names were pseudonyms for Griffith. He believed the name M. Gaston de Tolignac lent the film the French credentials it needed, while the credit for Captain Victor Marier suggested that a military expert was consulted. But Griffith did have experts working on Hearts of the World like future director Erich von Stroheim, who had a small role in the film and acted as a military advisor. Von Stroheim had served in the Austro-Hungarian army before emigrating to the U.S. And Griffith had himself racked up enough war experience, spending time in London during the Blitz, to infuse the movie with a certain true-to-life credibility. One instance in particular stands out. While preparing for Hearts of the World, Griffith and his actors came upon a bombed nursery school where close to a hundred children had been killed. The entire party was deeply affected and wept at the scene. Lillian Gish later remembered that Griffith reacted by saying, "this is what war is. Not the parades and the conference tables, but children killed, lives destroyed." So while Griffith may not have spent days in the trenches, he had seen the destructive force of war firsthand. And that, the conveyed sense of horror and fear on the home front, more than anything, made Hearts of the World a powerful drama.
Producer/Director: D.W. Griffith
Screenplay: D.W. Griffith
Cinematography: G.W. Bitzer
Film Editing: James Smith, Rose Smith
Original Music: Carli D. Elinor
Principal Cast: Lillian Gish (Marie Stephenson), Robert Harron (Douglas Gordon Hamilton), Dorothy Gish (The Little Disturber), Valerie Germonprez (Red Cross nurse), Mary Gish (A Refugee Mother). BW-118m.
by Stephanie Thames
Hearts of the World
Griffith filmed some battle scenes during actual battles at the front in France. While he was out near the front trenches scouting locations, his party came under a surprise German artillery barrage. Griffith and his assistant jumped in a nearby ditch, and when the barrage was over they left the ditch only to discover that although they were uninjured, a shell had exploded near the ditch, killing the two soldiers acting as their escorts, along with a dozen other soldiers standing nearby.
The movie was commissioned by Great Britain, which hoped that a depiction of WWI would help spur the United States to join the allies. -Griffith had the cooperation of the British, French and Belgian governments to film in their territories. But his cameraman, G.W. Bitzer, was of German descent and was not allowed in France. Griffith used an army cameraman instead.
-The Pennsylvania Board of Censors asked that scenes of brutality be cut from the film. As a result, Griffith cancelled the Philadelphia opening.
D. W. Griffith sailed to England on March 17, 1917 after accepting a commission from Great Britain to depict in motion pictures "an authentic history of the World War," according to a news item. Cameraman G. W. Bitzer and actors Robert Harron, Dorothy Gish and Lillian Gish arrived in England on June 8, 1917. Griffith stayed in Europe until October 1917 shooting scenes with the cooperation of the British War Office and the French government in France, Belgium and Great Britain, some of which were incorporated into Hearts of the World. Modern sources state that Bitzer, because of his German ancestry and name, was not allowed in France and that Griffith used an Army cameraman instead.
Most of Hearts of the World was shot after Griffith's return to the United States at the D. W. Griffith Studio in Hollywood. The film had a pre-release showing under the title Love's Struggle on February 15, 1918, and had its premiere at Clune's Auditorium in Los Angeles on March 12, 1918. It opened in New York on April 4, 1918 and was later released on a road show basis, under the management of Elliott, Comstock and Gest. After this, the film was released on a state rights basis.
Because the Pennsylvania Board of Censors ordered that seven scenes which depicted brutality be cut, the Philadelphia opening was cancelled. A "peace edition" of the film, containing several additional scenes, opened in New York on August 11, 1919 as the third offering in the D. W. Griffith Repertory Season at the George M. Cohan Theatre. M. Gaston de Tolignac and Captain Victor Marier were pseudonyms for D. W. Griffith. The film included shots of Rene Raphael Viviani, the French premier and minister of foreign affairs, and Sir Edward Grey, the British secretary of state for foreign affairs, addressing their respective parliaments in August 1914. According to the 1921 MPSD, Erich O. H. Von Stroheim was involved in this film in some manner. Modern sources credit him with technical supervision.
According to modern sources, Famous Players-Lasky Corp. financed the film. Modern sources add the following credits: European photography, D. P. Cooper; film editors, James and Rose Smith; music arrangements, Carli Elinor and D. W. Griffith; additional cast members, Mary Hay as a dancer and Erich von Stroheim as a German soldier. Variety noted that Lillian Gish's authentic peasant dress was created by Nathan of London.