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"He achieved what no other known man has achieved. To watch his work is like being witness to the beginning of melody, or the first conscious use of the lever or the wheel; the emergence, coordination and first eloquence of language; the birth of an art: and to realize that this is all the work of one man." James Agee on D, W. Griffith
"Griffith in 1919 was the unchallenged king of serious American movies (only C.B. DeMille rivaled him in fame), and "Broken Blossoms" was seen as brave and controversial. What remains today is the artistry of the production, the ethereal quality of Lillian Gish, the broad appeal of the melodrama, and the atmosphere of the elaborate sets (the film's budget was actually larger than that of "Birth of a Nation").
And its social impact. Films like this, naive as they seem today, helped nudge a xenophobic nation toward racial tolerance.
There is all of that, and then there is Lillian Gish's face. Was she the greatest actress of silent films? Perhaps; her face is the first I think of among the silent actresses, just as Chaplin and Keaton stand side by side among the men" From Roger Ebert's review
Broken Blossoms, also known as The Yellow Man and the Girl, is a 1919 American silent drama film directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess. Considered one of Griffith's most important works, the film tells the story of a young Chinese immigrant, Cheng Huan (Barthelmess), who falls in love with a mistreated young woman, Lucy Burrows (Gish). The film explores themes of racism, abuse, and compassion.
Cheng Huan, a gentle and idealistic Chinese man, immigrates to London with dreams of spreading the teachings of Buddhism. However, he soon becomes disillusioned by the harsh realities of life in the city's slums. He turns to opium for solace and loses his faith. One night, he finds Lucy Burrows, a young woman who is being abused by her father, a violent boxer. Cheng takes Lucy in and cares for her, and the two form a deep bond.
Lucy finds comfort and protection in Cheng's presence, and they fall in love. However, their interracial relationship is met with prejudice and hostility from Lucy's father and the surrounding community. The film culminates in tragedy, as Lucy is ultimately killed by her father in a fit of rage.
Broken Blossoms was a critical and commercial success, and it is considered one of the most important films of the silent era. The film's innovative use of close-ups, iris shots, and other cinematic techniques helped to establish Griffith as a master of the medium.