Last night I watched Broken Blossoms, a 1919 silent movie that aired on Turner Classic Movies recently. There is no way to adequately express how awesome TCM is for showing these old movies.
In Broken Blossoms Lillian Gish plays an abused girl who is befriended by a Chinese immigrant. (played by Richard Barthelmess) This movie was quite progressive for its time but by today’s standards it seems racist. Chinese characters are played by actors obviously of European ancestry and the word “chink” is used casually, as if it was a proper term. But for the most part I did enjoy watching Broken Blossoms. It took a few minutes to get used to the quaintness of it but I soon got caught up in the story, anxious to see what would happen every bit as much as when I watch a good modern drama.
One does have to make an effort to put oneself in the right frame of mind when watching a movie that’s almost a hundred years old. What was considered good entertainment then is laughable nowdays. Some of the lines sound the like winners in the Bulwer-Lytton contest and of course there’s the typical early film quality and odd acting style but one must remember that this was the way movies were in those days and this one is serious. I did not find it very difficult, myself. I thought it was a beautiful and sad movie.
Here is a clip from the middle of Broken Blossoms. I am disappointed that the music in this is different from the music used in the TCM broadcast. It was composed by Al Kryszak. I think the music in this clip is probably more like what you might have heard in a theater in 1919 but I liked Kryszak’s score, authentic or not.