So our next film is something a little different -- the silent romance from 1919 called True Heart Susie. Directed by DW Griffith and starring the lovely Lillian Gish and Robert Harron, True Heart Susie is the ultimate story of unrequited love, albeit one with a happy ending. "They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?" places it at a respectable 916, and it is one of only seven pre-1920s films to make the list.
Full Disclosure: I was so pleased to see this movie on the list, because it's a real gem of the silent era. I've seen this film a few times before and really like it. You have to understand something: I'm not a film snob. I will unreservedly say that there are some silent films out there that I just can't sit through. Either they're too slow and plodding, or confusing, or I'm just not engaged enough in the story line. There's lots of reasons why modern audiences find it difficult to watch silent films, and I don't think anyone should be looked down upon for not enjoying them. That being said, this is a very nice little film, and you're an uncultured swine if you don't like it. JK, JK...
First of all, let's take a look at the first story card given to us:
Oh Christ, this is going to be a morality piece, isn't it?
So to begin the film, we meet the heroes of our story -- the shy, unassuming, yet undeniably adorable Susie, and her stalwart, somewhat awkward best friend William. Susie's got a bit of a crush on William, but like all stupid teenage boys, he doesn't seem to notice that he's totally giving her mixed messages. They almost kiss on the way home from school, and he carves their initials into a tree. How much more proof does a girl need? Then they awkwardly almost kiss again, but he chickens out at the last second. Wuss.
Susie and William walk to the village, but on the way there, he stops to hit on another woman!
- Can we talk about how many times in this movie poor little Susie is referred to as "the plain girl"? Seriously? William gets to be just William, but every time the cards mention Susie, they have to clarify that they mean "the plain girl"? Also, look at Lillian Gish:
- How sweet but kind of sad is it that she confides in her "sister" Daisy? You know you're lonely when your confidante is a cow...and she's referred to as your sister. But then you're so fickle that you'd sell your sister so a guy who doesn't give you the time of day can go to college??
- I really like the different acting styles that Clarine Seymour (Bettina) and Lillian Gish have. Seymour is very much a "silent film actress", and her acting style is incredibly presentational. Gish is a performer who's far ahead of her time -- you can see her emotions in her eyes. The expressions on her face, far from being over exaggerated for the camera, are subtle and realistic. In a way, this really works for the story, as Bettina is superficial and shallow, whereas Susie is honest and just doesn't put on an act the way that Bettina does.
- There are some really effective flashbacks in this movie. When William sees his and Susie's initials on the tree, he remembers carving them and almost kissing her that day. It's really well done, especially for the time. Also, they did a really good job aging the characters from teenagers to adults -- it's especially clear in this scene, as we see adult William followed by teen William, and there's actually a marked difference.
- I love this shot of Susie reading her diary, as kittens climb all over her. It couldn't be cuter if it tried.
- So Sporty shows up to pick up Bettina, and we can see the words, "Sporty Malone" on the passenger side of the car. What kind of toolbox puts his name on the side of his car?!
- Let's talk about the message Griffith is trying to get across here. Make-up is bad. Girls who wear make-up are bad. Because make-up leads to tight clothes, which leads to gin, which leads to DANCING!!
Want to know more about the Top 1000 List? Check it out and see if your favorites are here! They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?