The Rumors Were Correct: Week of June 7th, 1919


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley should have believed the gossip about D.W. Griffith’s plans. On Tuesday she mentioned “rumors have been rife that Mr. Griffith would return to New York to work there permanently, but no confirmation could be gained yesterday from the studio.” So as a good journalist, she went straight to the source and on Thursday she reported he said

It’s all nonsense, that rumor about my going to New York to produce pictures or building a studio there. I still think Los Angeles is the only place in which to make pictures.

He also talked about the praise critics in Boston and Chicago had heaped on Broken Blossoms, then answered her question “and now that this first one is a success, you’ll go on and make more of the sort of pictures you yourself want to make?”

“Well, yes, it gives a person courage,” smiled Mr. Griffith. However, he still owed three pictures to the First National Exhibitor’s circuit before he could produce what he wanted.

Griffith’s studio in Mamaroneck, NY

So either Griffith changed his mind, or he wasn’t telling the truth. He left Los Angeles to make films in Mamaroneck, New York just three months later, in September. When she reported on it, she didn’t mention what he told her in June (she probably wanted to stay on his good side). The reason she was given for the move was “big business interests have long been calling him to New York.”

Griffith’s studio, 1921

Even that wasn’t true. According to his biographer Richard Schickel, it had more to do with Griffith wanting isolation that would allow him to carry on his filmmaking in secrecy, plus the rural setting reminded him of the farm he grew up on. He bought a 28-acre estate from Standard Oil magnate Henry Flagler and converted it into a working studio. His films from Way Down East (1920) to Sally of the Sawdust (1925) were made there.


Coincidentally, Kingsley’s favorite film this week was produced by Griffith, I’ll Get Him Yet. However, before she reviewed it, she noted an unhappy shortage:

Dear me, the cinema these days is so full of sad comedies and funny tragedies that it’s like a 1920 drink of champagne to find a comedy which is a real rib-tickler, one which sends the folks into gales of laughter so spontaneous that the veriest little undertaker’s delight of ‘em just has to join in.

Luckily, Dorothy Gish was there to save the day (Kingsley wrote “there are just about five really funny comediennes on the screen—and sometimes I think Dorothy is nearly all of them”). She played a rich and peppy young lady in pursuit of a young newspaperman who disdains her wealth, played by Richard Barthelmass. There’s a plot, of sorts, about her trying to keep secret that she owns a railroad, but that “perhaps doesn’t convey to you the bright sparkle of the whimsically clever comedy with its breezy subtitles and capital acting. You must see it to appreciate it.” Unfortunately, we can’t, because it’s a lost film.


Kingsley mentioned another film that was a huge hit:

The fifth and positively last week of The Shepherd of the Hills opened yesterday at Quinn’s Rialto to record crowds…The Shepherd of the Hills has broken all house records for Quinn’s Rialto during its stay here, as well as set a new standard of production in motion pictures. Taking the book page by page, Harold Bell Wright, the author, transferred his novel to the screen exactly as he told it in story form, and the result is a production that is a rare treat to those who have read the book.

It took ten reels to reproduce the 1907 novel about a kindly old man who gives good advice to the people of Mutton Hollow in the Ozarks. Later versions didn’t claim to be a precise adaptation, but they weren’t any shorter: the 1928 version was 9 reels, 1941 version was 10, and the 1964 version was 11. It’s still a popular story, and a live outdoor production is done annually in Branson, Missouri.



Richard Schickel. D.W. Griffith: An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

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