D.W. Griffith's last great success, "Orphans of the Storm" is a handsome, whirlwind of a film starring Lillian and Dorothy Gish as sisters during the French Revolution. "Orphans" is a wonderful showcase for all the techniques that Griffith had developed, mastered and patented since the beginning of his career.
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Orphans of the Storm is D.W. Griffith's last great success, an epic melodrama from 1922 about two orphaned girls (real-life sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish) raised in the same house and tragically separated during the French Revolution's infamous reign of terror. While it's no Birth of a Nation or Intolerance, it still reveals Griffith's inimitable talent for spectacle and intimacy. Not surprisingly, it works best when focusing on the plight of the two sisters: Lillian is a peasant who cares for the blind Dorothy, a product of the deposed aristocracy. Orphans of the Storm is a film about intriguing pairings. Mingling with the upper class to help find Dorothy, Lillian falls in love with the handsome and compassionate Joseph Schildkraut (best known as Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank) and beguiles the influential Danton. Dorothy, meanwhile, is held captive by a family of gypsies, and is fought over by two brothers. Despite the lavish sets and Lillian's stirring performance, the love stories and political tumult don't quite mesh. But there are two magnificent moments emblematic of Griffith's dual talents: When Lillian recognizes Dorothy's plaintive voice outside her window and comes to her rescue, and the thrilling climax when Danton rescues Lillian from the guillotine. --Bill Desowitz
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