Intolerance – Program


Intolerance – Program

Intolerance was not one story, but four. In Belshazzar’s Babylon (sixth century b.c.), the evil high priest conspires against the wise and just ruler, betraying the city to the Persian conqueror, Cyrus; by the end of this story, every “good” character is dead. In Judea, the close- minded Pharisees intrigue against Jesus; ulti¬ mately, the gentle savior is sent to the cross. In Reformation France (sixteenth century a.d.), ambitious courtiers persuade the Catholic king to slaughter all the Protestant Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day, a massacre that includes the rape and murder of a young Protestant and the killing of her fiance. In twentieth-century America (the “Modern Story,” which used to be The Mother and the Law), strikers are gunned down, a Boy is falsely convicted of murder, and his wife loses her baby thanks to the meddling of a group of reformers; the facts eventually surface to save the Boy from the gallows.

Instead of telling one story after the other, as in Home, Sweet Home, Griffith tells these stories all at once, interweaving them—and 2,500 years of history—into an intellectual and emotional argument, a demonstration that love, diversity, and the little guy have always had to struggle against the overwhelming forces of hypocrisy, intolerance, and oppression. Because the colliding, streaming, juxtaposed fragments of these stories implied an idea that went beyond the “moral” of each individual story, making the whole greater than and different from the sum of its parts, Intolerance is recognized as the cinema’s first great Modernist experiment in what Sergei Eisenstein would later call intellectual (or dialectical) montage.

Intolerance (Triangle, 1916). Fine. Program 1

In Intolerance, there are four frenzied climaxes; the excitement in each of the narrative lines reinforces the others, all of them driving furiously to their breathtaking conclusions. Griffith’s last-minute rescues cross-cut through the centuries.
And finally, tying the four stories together, much as Pippa did, is a symbolic mother-woman, rocking a cradle, bathed in a shaft of light, representing the eternal evolution of humanity through time and fate (the three Fates sit behind her), fulfilling the purpose of the creator. This woman, inspired by Whitman’s lines, “Endlessly rocks the cradle, Uniter of Here and Hereafter,” is a figure of peace, of light, of fertility (flowers bloom in her cradle at the end of the film), of ultimate goodness that will eventually triumph. She is played by Lillian Gish, who assisted Griffith in the editing of Intolerance.
The film’s bigness is obvious: the high walls of Babylon, the hugeness of the palace (and the immense tracking shot that Griffith uses to span it), the battle sequences, the care with each of the film’s periods and styles. The costumes, the lighting, the acting styles, the decor, and even the intertitles are so distinct in each of the four epochs that viewers know exactly whether they are in the squalid, drab poverty of a contemporary slum, the elegant tastefulness of the French court, or the garishness of ancient Babylon.

All Ages:
The Woman Who Rocks the Cradle – Lillian Gish

Modern Story (1914 a.d.):

  • The Dear One – . . Mae Marsh
  • Her Father, a mill worker – Fred Turner
  • The Boy – Robert Harron
  • Jerkins, mill magnate – Sam de Grasse
  • Mary Jenkins, his sister – Vera Lewis
  • Strike Leader – Monte Blue
  • Two Crooks – Tod Browning, Edward Dillon

Judean Story (27 a.d.):

  • The Nazarene – . . Howard Gaye
  • Mary, the mother – Lillian Langdon
  • Mary Magdalene – Olga Grey
  • First Pharisee – Erich von Stroheim
  • Second Pharisee – Gunther von Ritzau
  • Bride of Gana – Bessie Love

Medieval French Story (1572 a.d.):

  • Brown Eyes, daughter of a Huguenot family – Margery Wilson
  • Prosper Latour, her sweetheart – Eugene Pallette
  • Charles IX, King of France – Frank Bennett
  • Catherine de Medici – Josephine Crowell
  • Marguerite de Valois, sister of Charles IX – Constance Talmadge
  • Due d’Anjou, heir to the Throne – Maxfield Stanley

Babylonian Story (539 B.C.):

  • The Mountain Girl – Constance Talmadge
  • The Rhapsode, her suitor and secret agent of the High Priest of Bel – . . Elmer Clifton
  • The Prince Belshazzar – . . Alfred Paget
  • The Princess Beloved, adored of Belshazzar – . . Seena Owen
  • The King Nabonidus, ancient apostle of religious toleration – Carl Stockdale
  • The High Priest of Bel, who conspires against the Throne – Tully Marshall
  • Cyrus, emperor and war lord of the Persians,world-conqueror – George Siegmann
  • Gobyras, the Mighty Man of Valour,Belshazzar’s bodyguard – Elmo Lincoln
  • Captain at the Great Gate of Imgur-Bel – . . Ted Duncan
  • Solo Dancer – Ruth St. Denis

Slave Girls, Dancers, Hand-Maidens from Ishtar’s Temple of Love : Virgins of the Sacred Fires of Life : Entertainers at Belshazzar’s Feast, etc., etc.
Alma Rubens, Carmel Myers, Pauline Starke, Mildred Harris Chaplin {Mrs. Charles Chaplin), Eve Southern, Winifred Westover, Jewel Carmen, Colleen Moore, Natalie Talmadge, Carol Dempster, Ethel Terry, Daisy Robinson, Anna Mae Walthall {Anna Mae Wongl)The Denishawn Dancers and other Players from the Triangle Theatre.

Triangle Theatre “stars” and featured players, who played “bit” parts or “extra” roles:
Douglas Fairbanks, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, De Wolf Hopper, Frank Campeau, Donald Crisp, Nigel de Brulier, Wilfred Lucas, Owen Moore, Andre Beranger, Tammany Young, Francis Carpenter.

Supported by a cast of some 20,000 “extras” players, engaged from the populations of the Californian coastal towns and suburbs.

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