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  • The idea of joining together four different narratives with the theme of "Home, Sweet Home" works fairly well in this early full-length D.W. Griffith feature. The account of composer John Howard Payne's own life is interesting for the way that it puts his well-known song in context. The other three stories vary in quality, but all are at least worth seeing. The format seems to have been a hedge against the possibility that releasing the whole thing as one picture might be unsuccessful. But Griffith and others would soon make better use of the multiple narrative idea, making this feature of some interest historically.

    Of the three fictional stories, one is mostly routine (the young married couple), one is pretty good (the young man heading out west), and one is somewhat interesting but heavy-handed and unconvincing (the two brothers). All of them are similar to familiar kinds of one-reel dramas from the era. None of the stories are particularly memorable, but they're not bad either. As a whole, the idea and the material are good enough to make it worth watching.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    D.W. Griffith's allegorical study of John Howard Payne, who composed the heart-tugging standard "Home, Sweet Home". The director presents the drama in four parts:

    In "Part I. (Prologue)" *****, Henry B. Walthall (as Payne) leaves home to make his fortune in the big city, leaving Lillian Gish to pine away at home, with his mother. Mr. Walthall succumbs to a decadent lifestyle (he becomes an actor!); and, he never returns home to find true happiness with Ms. Gish. Unfortunately, there is no East Hampton location footage featuring "Payne House"; which would have been lovely to see, as I am a resident. Walthall and Gish are typically up for the task, in this pivotal episode. Josephine Crowell and Fay Tincher offer support (from opposite sides of the fence).

    In "Part II. (First Episode)" ******, Robert Harron (as Robert "Bob" Winthrop) has better luck as "a fortune seeking youth from the east" who falls for country girl Mae Marsh (as "Apple Pie" Mary). Though tempted to return to his Eastern lifestyle, Harron finally comes to his senses, after hearing "Home, Sweet Home". This is the best "Episode" of the film, with Harron and Ms. Marsh proving a very pleasant pair. Marsh is especially memorable; with a cute, lighter characterization than her illustrious co-actresses. Spottiswoode Aiken and Walter Long (as Alkali Pete) lend their support.

    In "Part III. (Second Episode)" ****, Jack Pickford gives mother Mary Alden a will to live after hateful brothers Donald Crisp and James Kirkwood shoot each other to death. Structurally and thematically, this is the weakest link in the overall story. Unlike the other episodes, there is a good deal of outdoor location footage; highlighted by seacoast scenes, and Pickford's "The brothers are fighting, the brothers are fighting!" warning ride. Fred Burns lends support, as the sheriff Pickford idolizes. This may have been intended as an individual film, praising good dullness over wicked excitement.

    In "Part IV. (Third Episode): 'The Marriage of Roses and Lilies'" *****, Blanche Sweet is tempted to carnally engage suave Owen Moore, but returns to the arms of sleepy Courtenay Foote, after hearing "Home, Sweet Home." Here, the drama returns more solidly to the power of the song to change one's direction, in the face of temptation. Happily reversing the earlier episodes, the woman is the character tempted; although, Ms. Sweet's looks more like innocent flirtation. Edward Dillon lends stalwart support.

    In "Epilogue" *****, Walthall is in Hell, or being pulled there by his lustful life. Gish, now an angel in Heaven, flies around, searching for her earthly beloved. Finally, in Gish's loving arms, Walthall ascends. Overall, "Home, Sweet Home" suggests Payne received salvation, in the afterlife, through the everlasting power of his song. Griffith's patchwork storytelling would significantly improve, in a couple of years…

    ***** Home, Sweet Home (5/14/14) D.W. Griffith ~ Henry B. Walthall, Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Robert Harron
  • Cineanalyst2 April 2004
    Warning: Spoilers
    "Suggested by the life of John Howard Payne and his immortal song, 'Home, Sweet Home.'" Yet, "not biographical but photo-dramatic and allegorical, and might apply to the lives and works of many men of genius, whose failings in private life have been outweighed by their great gifts to humanity." There's the premise for Griffith's homage to homesickness.

    The opening of a house window begins this story, where Payne (played by Henry Walthall) is leaving his boyhood home to become an actor. Payne goes astray, writes his song and never reunites with his sweetheart (played by Lillian Gish). We're reminded you can travel the world, but there's no place like home. I'm reminded of "The Truman Show."

    Anyhow, three stories follow. First, a fortune-seeking Easterner (played by Robert Harron) falls in love with Apple Pie Marry (played by Mae Marsh). Second, a sibling (played by James Kirkwood) decides, for some greedy, sociopathic reason that's not made apparent, to kill his brother (played by Donald Crisp). Third, the marriage of roses and lilies, which begins with a nice iris shot focusing on Blanche Sweet's beauty. A visitor of evil, however, tempts the wife (Sweet) to leave her husband (played by Courtenay Foote). The highlight of the first part is Lillian Gish; the second part is sweet in a silly, comical way; the third part is interesting, albeit lacking plot development, for being dark; and the last part, besides what I already mentioned, includes a good makeup job on Sweet and Foote to make them look older and older.

    It must have been wretched to see "Judith of Bethulia" (1914) cut into and released as four separate shorts, and to have later taken away the brilliance of "Intolerance" (1916) by doing likewise, but I can see where it wouldn't have taken much away from "Home, Sweet Home." The point is that Payne's song, at least to some extent, helps others in their lives. "And so, for countless services like these shall not his (Payne's) faults be forgiven?" There's a silly epilogue to answer that question. At least this early Griffith feature is short and, due in some to that, sweet.
  • kidboots10 April 2012
    Warning: Spoilers
    In this intricately plotted film (for 1914) involving four linked stories, D.W. Griffith set the scene for his more famous "Intolerance" (1916). When Griffith went ahead and produced the feature length "Judith of Bethulia" against the wishes of the Biograph bosses (as well as going over budget, they thought longer films would hurt patron's eyes!!!) he left the studio and took all the Biograph stock company with him. "Home, Sweet Home" was one of the films he made for Reliance, before he joined Triangle, and featured an all star cast. It was simplistically symbolic and featured many flowery titles (that would have made William S. Hart feel proud) as well as liberally quoting verses of the song throughout the movie. It did however give a key role to the young and wistful Mae Marsh. Even though she didn't have stage experience like the other girls, Griffith saw in her a freshness and naturalness that even Lillian Gish didn't possess.

    She was Apple Pie Mary in the first story and her exuberance just burst through - she played a young waitress in a mining town beloved by a young Easterner (Robert Harron) who comes to seek his fortune. When an Eastern girl (Miriam Cooper) comes to town the difference in their style and manners causes him to lose his way but hearing the old refrain "Home, Sweet Home" makes him realise his error. The second story has Jack Pickford as a "dull lad" caught in the middle of his brother's war of hate. This episode features a thrilling last minute rescue as Jack and the Sheriff ride along an ocean road. The photography by Billy Bitzer, which takes a sweeping panoramic view of the chase, is amazing. The third story featured Blanche Sweet as a young bride who is briefly tempted by Owen Moore. The three stories are framed by a prologue that told the story of John Howard Payne (Henry B. Walthall) the composer of "Home, Sweet Home".

    For me the stand out performances were Dorothy Gish, Mae Marsh and Blanche Sweet. Dorothy Gish, always over shadowed by older sister Lillian and often over looked by Griffith in his effort to boost Lillian's career, may only have had a minute in the prologue sequence (as Lillian's younger sister) but she put her personality on her part as her expressions told just what she really thought of her sister's romance. Mae Marsh showed that you didn't need stage experience to prove yourself in pictures. She didn't act - she really lived her part, she was like a breath of fresh air ie, when seeing Harron for the first time she hurriedly takes out the curling papers from her hair and again when he goes away she takes to wearing his spectacles around. Blanche Sweet showed a maturity of acting style beyond her years. In 1913 she was Biograph's big star. She had proved herself in "The Lonedale Operator" and in 1913 Griffith entrusted her with the lead in his first feature "Judith of Bethulia". But by 1915 Griffith had found his muse in Lillian Gish and the role he had promised Sweet in "Birth of a Nation" didn't eventuate.
  • Home, Sweet Home (1914)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Interesting, if not totally successful, drama from Griffith tells four different stories with the later three being wrapped around John Howard Payne's song Home, Sweet Home. The film starts off with Payne (Henry B. Walthall) leaving his mother and sweetheart (Lillian Gish) to find fame but ends up in a world of depression only to die alone but first writing a song that would become famous much later. In the second story a man (Robert Harron) falls in love with a woman (Mae Marsh) but gets a chance to go out West. The third story deals with two brothers (one played by Donald Crisp) who hate one another and try to do each other off. The fourth story has a wife (Blanche Sweet) being tempted to leave her husband for a man with more money. This Griffith film clocks in at 55-minutes but it really doesn't feel like a feature but instead just four shorts thrown together. I must admit that the director did a very good job at connecting all three "separate" stories to the song from the first one. I thought Griffith did a pretty good job at building the stories up but all of them vary in quality. The opening has a strong performance by Walthall and this is probably the best of the group. Gish is also quite strong as she and Walthall get some nice scenes together. The story involving the man going out West is also a good one thanks in large part to the terrific performance by Harron. The story with the two brothers is so over-dramatic that you can't help but roll your eyes. I thought this was without question the weakest story. The final one is the shortest but it's always nice to see Sweet. We even get a prologue that features Walthall being dragged to Hell by some evil forces only to have an angel (played by Lillian Gish) to try rescue him. As you can tell, this film features a terrific cast of Griffith's regulars and we also get Dorothy Gish and Jack Pickford. Seeing such a large cast in a 55-minute movie is certainly a plus but one wishes the final two stories had been written just a tad bit better. With that said, fans of Griffith or the cast will find enough here to make this worth viewing at least once.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This D.W. Griffith film plows familiar ground for this filmmaker. Once again, like in "A Romance of Happy Valley", the famed director makes a film extolling the virtues of a simple home life—and does it in a very ham-fisted and extremely old fashioned manner (even for the time). It's no wonder that soon Griffith's work would be considered dated and out of step with the times.

    Part one of this four parter is a BRIEF telling of the life of John Howard Payne—the man who wrote the famous song "There's No Place Like Home". The problem is that in the film Griffith admits that the piece is NOT biographical but is 'photo-dramatic and allegorical'. Further, the film says it is 'suggested by the life of John Howard Payne'! So, what good is a biography if it's all a lie?! Well, Griffith apparently felt that lying to make his point was okay—provided you admitted you were lying! Payne's life is boiled down to him becoming a hopeless loser because he abandoned his ideals, his girl of his dreams (Lillian Gish) and his home.

    If wasn't bad enough (and it IS), we are then treated to three more mini-movies with allegories about home and the simple life. One is about a guy temporarily seduced by big city women who realizes his error just before it's too late—and the new couple are shown years later—happy and with babies. Another is about greed—and by the end, both men are dead. And the third is about a young married woman who is about to cheat on her husband. She hears the song "Home Sweet Home" and reforms—and you see a final shot with the husband and wife with lots 'o babies. Then, you assume the film is over—but it isn't! Instead in the final few minutes you see a Faustian version of Payne—where he's dead in Hell but remembers his extremely virginal girlfriend (Gish) and her angel comes down and somehow saves him!! The religious implications are bizarre to say the least.

    The entire concoction comes off has heavy-handed claptrap. Frankly, I love my family and agree with much that the film is trying to say—but I felt embarrassed by the picture and felt it probably pushed more people to reject these values and embrace them! It's a tiresome mess and a film not worth your time. Plus, Griffith has done so much better than this—see those films first!

    There is one thing I should add and that it seems with films like these Griffith was incredibly hypocritical. After all, if staying home and not moving to the wicked big city was his ideal and he preached to audiences about this, why did he leave rural Kentucky to move to Los Angeles?! And, why did folks like Jack Pickford (Mary's brother) drink themselves to death even though they starred in this film? I'm just wondering…. Perhaps it's a case of 'do as I say and not as I do'!