Wednesday, July 5, 2017

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2016) by Year - 0222 - DREAM STREET (D.W. Griffith, 1921, USA, 138m, BW)



(D.W. Griffith, 1921, USA, 138m, BW)


DREAM STREET (D.W. Griffith, 1921, USA, 138m, BW)

Directed by D. W. Griffith
Written by Thomas Burke (short story)
Roy Sinclair
Based on "Gina of Chinatown" and "Song of the Lamp"
by Thomas Burke
Starring Carol Dempster
Charles Emmett Mack
Ralph Graves
Tyrone Power, Sr.
Narrated by D. W. Griffith
Music by Louis Silvers
Irving Berlin
Cinematography Henrik Sartov
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
April 12, 1921
Running time
135 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent
(with sound sequences)
English intertitles


Dream Street is a 1921 American silent romantic drama film directed by D. W. Griffith, and starring Carol Dempster, Charles Emmett Mack, and Ralph Graves in a story about a love triangle set in London, and based on two short stories by Thomas Burke, "Gina of Chinatown" and "Song of the Lamp". The cast also features Tyrone Power, Sr.


The flowers that bloom in the spring on New York's main street are the superdeluxe motion-picture productions, the silent dramas that replace the noisy dreams of the winter season. When the theatrical season begins to wane, every film producer, who has a little million-dollar spectacle in his vaults, rushes out, leases a big theater, and puts on his show as a rival attraction to the legitimate offerings. You pay your money, and you take your choice. Among those seized with this spring fever was D.W. Griffith. "Dream Street" is his contribution to the silly season. It is one of those pictures that Griffith tosses off in his less-inspired moments. But, as you know, Griffith's less-inspired moments are, at least in some respects, better than the topmost flights of fancy of most of his rivals.

If you are looking for typical Griffith thrills in "Dream Street," you will not find them. But you will find much in it that captivates your imagination. The story, like the well-known mattress, was built -- not made. The characters were suggested by Thomas Burke, the London reporter who discovered the Limehouse district -- imported to this country in "Broken Blossoms." The continuity of the alleged plot was written by Rose and James Smith, who are not related to the reviewer. If the personages in the piece were suggested by Burke, the story obviously was suggested by Victorien Sardou, who wrote "La Tosca."

However, it is not fair to judge a Griffith picture by its plot. Griffith does not believe in plots; he believes in pictures. And, judged solely as a succession of beautiful pictures, "Dream Street" is an enchanting entertainment. Griffith has an eye for composition and rhythm. By an adroit use of lights, by clever settings and by skillful handling of his players, he can make you laugh, cry and get all excited over the silliest kind of wish-wash, clap-trap situations. The master magician of the movies hypnotizes you, and, while you are spellbound by his pretty pictures, he slams at your head an outrageously absurd and sentimental melodrama. In telling the simple story of a cheap vaudeville singer and her rowdy suitor, he weaves an atmosphere that is worthy of a tale from the "Arabian Nights."

Griffith exercises this hypnotism not only on his audiences, but on the players in his company. Take, for instance, the case of Carol Dempster. Miss Dempster is young, pretty, lively, and a beautiful dancer. After seeing "Dream Street," you would go before a notary and swear that she is an emotional actress. But she is not; she is merely graceful and attractive. Although she is a fascinating young person and more obviously pretty than Lillian Gish, she hasn't Miss Gish's great charm. Ralph Graves, seen as the rowdy suitor, was only half hypnotized. Sometimes he acts, sometimes he merely makes faces at the camera. Charles Emmett Mack, another important member of the cast, is a clear example of Griffith hypnotism. Before he was an actor, he served his art as a property man. Griffith made a few mystical passes before his face, and, behold, he gives a creditable performance of a difficult role. Two old-timers, W.J. Ferguson and Tyrone Power, are also seen in the cast.


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