Cast & Crew
D. W. Griffith
Edward Livingston is the selfish, pampered scion of a wealthy New York family. To his chagrin, he finds that he is falling in love with the vivacious Jeanette Peret, who sells cigars in her father's Greenwich Village tobacco shop. Jeanette is attracted to Edward but soon becomes disillusioned by his condescending manner and his dislike of children. Jeanette's father Leo longs to visit his native land of France, and when Edward anonymously sends him a check for $1,000, he and his daughter make the journey to a small village on the Marne River. The young man follows, but because he cannot comprehend Jeanette's fondness for Monsieur Le Bebe, a common but goodhearted man, he returns to New York. With the outbreak of World War I, Edward fights with the American forces in the trenches of Europe, where he repeatedly witnesses selfless acts of courage. He is deeply moved when a young black soldier offers him his last drop of water. Soon afterwards, the soldier is shot, and as he lays dying and calling for his mammy, Edward kisses his cheek. Le Bebe is killed defending Jeanette, whose father's secret telephone has been traced by the Germans, and they are narrowly rescued by a detachment of Americans led by Edward. Having learned understanding and courage, Edward is united with Jeanette.
D. W. Griffith
ZaSu Pitts was originally cast in a supporting role, but D.W. Griffith fired her because he thought she looked too much like the female lead, Lillian Gish. All of her scenes were cut from the final print.
This film featured a then-shocking kiss between a white soldier and a dying black soldier; unfortunately, no copy of the film is known to exist.
The working title of this film was The Cradle of Souls. Modern sources credit James Smith as film editor and give a length of 6,062 ft. Lengths noted in contemporary sources vary from five to seven reels. Some of the scenes were shot along the Marne River and Chateau Thierry in France. Captain Victor Marier, credited as the film's author, was the pseudonym of D. W. Griffith and S. E. V. Taylor. In her autobiography, Lillian Gish, who calls the film "one of Mr. Griffith's best films and one of his most neglected," states that she suggested the film's title. Modern sources state that the original title was Cradle of Souls. Gish also relates that portrait photographer Henrik Sartov shot close-ups of her for the film. According to modern sources, Griffith produced a stage prologue for the film's Los Angeles opening, which was directed by George Fawcett and featured, among others, Rudolph Valentino, Clarine Seymour and Carol Dempster.