Way Down East

Director: D.W. Griffith
Year Released: 1920
Rating: 3.0

"Fallen woman" template filmed with grace: naive Lillian Gish is seduced, impregnated and thrown away by a womanizer (that rogue!), forcing her to run off and try to make a new existence for herself before she (inevitably) has to confront her (at that time) Illicit Past. The story is familiar but Griffith's presentation is what's important, and the famous ice flow scene - in which Gish's new suitor risks his life to rescue her (both literally and figuratively) as she floats down the river - is beautifully ridiculous and magnificently recorded. Love saves the wounded soul and religious intolerance gives way to compassion: reality is rarely so sweet.