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5.0 1
Director: D.W. Griffith, Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Robert Harron

Cast: D.W. Griffith, Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Robert Harron


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Sometime during the shooting of the landmark The Birth of a Nation, filmmaker D.W. Griffith probably wondered how he could top himself. In 1916, he showed how, with the awesome Intolerance. The film began humbly enough as a medium-budget feature entitled The Mother and the Law, wherein the lives of a poor but happily married couple are disrupted


Sometime during the shooting of the landmark The Birth of a Nation, filmmaker D.W. Griffith probably wondered how he could top himself. In 1916, he showed how, with the awesome Intolerance. The film began humbly enough as a medium-budget feature entitled The Mother and the Law, wherein the lives of a poor but happily married couple are disrupted by the misguided interference of a "social reform" group. A series of unfortunate circumstances culminates in the husband's being sentenced to the gallows, a fate averted by a nick-of-time rescue engineered by his wife. In the wake of the protests attending the racist content of The Birth of a Nation, Griffith wanted to demonstrate the dangers of intolerance. The Mother and the Law filled the bill to some extent, but it just wasn't "big" enough to suit his purposes. Thus, using The Mother and the Law as merely the base of the film, Griffith added three more plotlines and expanded his cinematic thesis to epic proportions. The four separate stories of Intolerance are symbolically linked by Lillian Gish as the Woman Who Rocks the Cradle ("uniter of the here and hereafter"). The "Modern Story" is essentially The Mother and the Law; the "French Story" details the persecution of the Huguenots by Catherine de Medici (Josephine Crowell); the "Biblical Story" relates the last days of Jesus Christ (Howard Gaye); and the "Babylonian Story" concerns the defeat of King Belshazzar (Alfred Paget) by the hordes of Cyrus the Persian (George Siegmann). Rather than being related chronologically, the four stories are told in parallel fashion, slowly at first, and then with increasing rapidity. The action in the film's final two reels leaps back and forth in time between Babylon, Calvary, 15th century France, and contemporary California. Described by one historian as "the only film fugue," Intolerance baffled many filmgoers of 1916 -- and, indeed, it is still an exhausting, overwhelming experience, even for audiences accustomed to the split-second cutting and multilayered montage sequences popularized by Sergei Eisenstein, Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, Joel Schumacher, and MTV. On a pure entertainment level, the Babylonian sequences are the most effective, played out against one of the largest, most elaborate exterior sets ever built for a single film. The most memorable character in this sequence is "The Mountain Girl," played by star on the rise Constance Talmadge; when the Babylonian scenes were re-released as a separate feature in 1919, Talmadge's tragic death scene was altered to accommodate a happily-ever-after denouement. Other superb performances are delivered by Mae Marsh and Robert Harron in the Modern Story, and by Eugene Pallette and Margery Wilson in the French Story. Remarkably sophisticated in some scenes, appallingly naïve in others, Intolerance is a mixed bag dramatically, but one cannot deny that it is also a work of cinematic genius. The film did poorly upon its first release, not so much because its continuity was difficult to follow as because it preached a gospel of tolerance and pacifism to a nation preparing to enter World War I. Currently available prints of Intolerance run anywhere from 178 to 208 minutes; while it may be rough sledding at times, it remains essential viewing for any serious student of film technique.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Stung by criticism of The Birth of a Nation (1915), D.W. Griffith decided to add three stories to his new feature about modern social inhumanity to create a vast epic discourse against the evils of intolerance. Even more ambitious in scale and structure than The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance moves forward through cross-cutting among four tales of injustice: the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 16th century France, the crucifixion of Christ, a modern workers' strike, and a story of ancient Babylon. The four are initially linked by the transitional image of a woman rocking a cradle, but Griffith speeds up the cross-cutting as each story reaches its climax, creating a quadruple action denouement. His virtuoso technical talents in handling both large-scale scenes and intimate personal moments are amply displayed in the landmark three-hour saga, but when Intolerance was released, it failed to match its predecessor's popularity. Its audience appeal was hampered by Griffith's preference for solemnly arguing ideas over creating involving characters, by its complex structure, and by its allegedly pacifist message as the U.S. was about to join World War I, so Intolerance became an expensive flop. Regardless, its formidable artistic influence can be seen from the work of Soviet montage master Sergei Eisenstein to Cecil B. DeMille's epics to Francis Ford Coppola's dual cross-cut narrative in The Godfather Part II (1974).

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lillian Gish The Woman Who Rocks the Cradle
Mae Marsh The Dear One
Robert Harron The Boy
Miriam Cooper The Friendless One
Walter Long The Musketeer of the Slums
Tully Marshall High Priest of Bel
Alfred Paget Prince Belshazzar
Mary Alden "Uplifter" and Reformer
Monte Blue Strike Leader
Lucille Brown "Uplifters"
William Brown The Warden
Edmund Burns The 2nd Charioteer of the Priest of Bel
Gino Corrado The Runner
Jack Cosgrove Chief Eunuch
Donald Crisp Extra
Ruth Darling Actor
Max Davidson The Kindly Neighbor
Edward Dillon Chief Detective
Ted Duncan Captain of the Gate Bodyguard to the Prin
Pearl Elmore "Uplifters"
Eagle Eye Barbarian Chieftain
George Fawcett A Babylonian Judge
Ruth Handforth Brown Eyes' Mother
Joseph Henaberry Adm. Coligny
Clyde Hopkins Jenkins Secretary
Roben Lawlor Judge
William E. Lawrence Henry of Navarre
Alberta Lee Wife of the Kindly Neighbor
Jennifer Lee Woman at Jenkins' Employees' Dance
Mrs. Arthur Mackley "Uplifters"
Marguerite Marsh A Debutante Guest at the Ball
Felix Modjeska Bodyguard to the Princess
Loyola O'Connor Attareo's Slave
Wallace Reid Boy Killed in the Fighting
Alma Rubens Actor
Ruth St. Denis Solo Dancer
Howard Scott A Babylonian Dandy
A.D. Sears The Mercenary
Fred Turner The Girl's Father
W.S. Van Dyke A Wedding Guest
Gunther von Ritzau First Pharisee
George Walsh The Bridegroom
Eleanor Washington Actor
Winifred Westover The Favorite of Egibi
Howard Gaye The Christ
Olga Grey Mary Magdalene
Mildred Harris Harem Girl
Lloyd Ingraham Judge of the Court
Lillian Langdon Mary, the Mother
Ralph Lewis The Governor
Vera Lewis Mary T. Jenkins
Elmo Lincoln Belshazzar's bodyguard
Bessie Love The Bride of Cana
Seena Owen Attarea, the Prince's Beloved
Eugene Pallette Prosper Latour
George Siegmann Cyrus the Persian
Maxfield Stanley Count d'Anjou
Pauline Starke Harem Girl
Carl Stockdale King Nabonidus
Constance Talmadge Girl from the Mountains
Erich Von Stroheim Second Pharisee
Margery Wilson Brown Eyes
Tom Wilson The Kindly Policeman
Wilfred Lucas Actor
Spottiswood Aitken Brown Eyes' Father
Frank Bennett Charles IX
Barney Bernard Prosecutor
Tod Browning Owner of the Racing Car
Kate Bruce Babylonian Mother
Josephine Crowell Catherine de Medici
Sam de Grasse Arthur Jenkins
Elmer Clifton The Rhapsode

Technical Credits
D.W. Griffith Director,Score Composer,Costumes/Costume Designer,Editor,Producer,Production Designer,Screenwriter
Billy Bitzer Cinematographer
Karl Brown Cinematographer
Tod Browning Asst. Director,Screenwriter
Carl Davis Score Composer
Joseph Henaberry Asst. Director
Rose Smith Editor
James Smith Editor
Erich Von Stroheim Asst. Director


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Intolerance 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Bayadere More than 1 year ago
Intolerance has been called "the only film fugue." It interweaves stories from various historic eras, all the way back to Babylon. D. W. Griffith invented the language of films and his techniques have been followed ever since. He takes his time telling his stories and we have to be willing to enter into the film and let it work its spell. This point needs stating as the age of the film means it lacks the finesse of later movies. Griffith was creating the language of films as he went along.