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