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Way Down East

Released Sep 3, 1920 2h 25m Drama List
96% Tomatometer 25 Reviews 70% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings An unwed mother (Lillian Gish) is abandoned, then banished in a blizzard and set adrift on ice floes. Read More Read Less

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Way Down East

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Critics Reviews

View All (25) Critics Reviews
Ruth Boyle New York Daily News Way Down East is a beautiful and satisfying picture. Sep 13, 2021 Full Review Variety Staff Variety With the gathering together of a relatively small cast and less than half a dozen stellar film artists, D.W. has taken a simple, elemental, old-fashioned, bucolic melodrama and milked it for 12 reels of absorbing entertainment. Mar 26, 2009 Full Review Tony Rayns Time Out [Lillian Gish's] virtuoso performance makes the heroine's growth from gullible innocence to bitter experience credible. Jan 26, 2006 Full Review W. Stephen Bush Billboard Mr. Griffith has the eye of a landscape painter of the first flight. Mar 16, 2023 Full Review Zita Short InSession Film The whole film really builds up to the big set piece that lets the story go out on a bang. Feb 2, 2023 Full Review Mike Massie Gone With The Twins An epic romance (with an epic runtime, which hurts the pacing now and then), containing striking imagery, colorful characters, and heartfelt interactions. Rated: 9/10 Sep 22, 2022 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Audience Member Lillian Gish was one of the great stars of the silent era, pioneering the techniques of cinematic acting before and during the birth of American film-making. She lived to be 100 years old and her career spanned from 1912 to 1987! Way Down East is probably one of her greatest films for its sheer dramatic and emotional quality. The film contains a famous sequence involving an ice river rescue, featuring Gish's character floating down a real river on a slab of ice. Since there were no stunt doubles at the time, Gish had to perform the stunts herself. She got frostbitten on the side of her face! Furthermore, the scene was filmed in White River Junction, Vermont! Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/23/23 Full Review georgan g Had to give this film the extra 1/2 star for the scene on the ice. It was scary even by modern standards. Naturally, D.W. Griffith's sexist attitudes made the main character, Lillian Gish, look totally helpless. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Luca D Story of a young country girl who is fooled by the wits of a rich prowling city man. She then comes to fear falling in love again. I won't give much away but I can say that the melancholy acting along with a powerful score makes this movie quite somber. If you're into silent films I would highly recommend this. It's not one of those plots where everything is obviously pointed out like in other silent films. The build is amazing and the climax eventually arrives as a bittersweet reward. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 08/06/21 Full Review William L Griffith certainly held political views that keep modern conversation about the man mired in controversy, but regardless of what else he might have been, there are few that could argue that he wasn't America's first truly great commercial film director. The scales of his films, the sheer ambition, the magnificent quality and diversity of his sets, they each cement his status as a titan of the early industry, and Way Down East is a solid representative of each of these. The narrative itself may not elicit the most profound reactions in this day and age - the film is essentially a rather conventional morality tale steeped in the Christian teachings that would have been ubiquitous among members of polite society at the time of release, and is drenched in melodrama - but it is so incredibly well executed on a technical basis, and features such an emotional performance by Gish (who nimbly avoids the pitfalls of overacting that silent film actors so commonly tend to fall into), that you likely won't care. Setting aside his thoughts on race, Griffith was surprisingly progressive in his stance on women, creating some of the most independently-minded and symbolic female characters, and predating Howard Hawks by decades in that regard. (4/5) Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/03/21 Full Review Audience Member One of the best silent films, and holds up even by modern standards. Interesting plot, with exceptional acting by Barthelmess and Gish. The scene where Gish won't let go of her dead baby is hauntingly sad and beautiful, while the famous ending with Gish on the ice flows as Barthelmess comes to rescue her is movie-making at its finest. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/06/23 Full Review Audience Member The best thrilling romance movie ever made! With the best movie character ever portrayed: Lowell Sherman as Lennox Sanderson! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/26/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Way Down East

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis An unwed mother (Lillian Gish) is abandoned, then banished in a blizzard and set adrift on ice floes.
Director
D.W. Griffith
Producer
D.W. Griffith
Screenwriter
D.W. Griffith, Joseph R. Grismer, Anthony Paul Kelly
Distributor
United Artists
Production Co
D.W. Griffith Productions
Genre
Drama
Release Date (Theaters)
Sep 3, 1920, Original
Release Date (Streaming)
Aug 11, 2016
Runtime
2h 25m
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