(director/writer: Victor Seastrom; screenwriters: Frances Marion/adapted from a story by Dorothy Scarborough; cinematographer: John Arnold; editor: Conrad A. Nervig; cast: Lillian Gish (Letty Mason), Lars Hanson (Lige), Montagu Love (Wirt Roddy), Dorothy Cumming (Cora), Edward Earle (Beverly), William Orlamond (Sourdough); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kevin Brownlow; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1928-silent)
“It’s one of the few silents to stand the test of time.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A gripping melodrama of raw emotions. It’s one of the few silents to stand the test of time, and is praiseworthy as one of the last great silents. Even by using modern standards it can still be viewed today as a great film. It’s adapted from a story by Dorothy Scarborough. Harried MGM executive Irving Thalberg, the head of studio production, urged star Lillian Gish to take charge in getting the production rolling for “The Wind.” Lillian subsequently wrote a four page story outline and recruited Frances Marion to write the screenplay. Ms. Gish also recruited the great Swedish emigré director Victor Seastrom (“The Outlaw and his Wife”/“He Who Gets Slapped”/”The Scarlet Letter”), who was giving Hollywood a temporary fling, to direct. Victor and Lillian chose the great classical Swedish stage actor Lars Hanson to play the romantic lead.
The high quality downbeat film was shot under harsh conditions in California’s Mojave desert, where the stifling heat, blowing sand (caused by blowing airplane propellers) and wind made the shoot difficult. It remains a great work of art despite the exhibitors forcing the filmmaker to tack on an unneeded happy ending.
It opens with the innocent and destitute young farm girl Letty Mason (Lillian Gish) traveling by train from her hometown of Virginia to the barren Texas prairie to stay with her clueless but friendly married cousin Beverly (Edward Earle), a struggling cattle man married to the overbearing witch-like Cora (Dorothy Cumming). The impoverished couple are raising three children in the harsh region, all of whom find more warmth from Letty than mom. On the train Letty was wooed by the cocky Fort Worth cattle trader Wirt Roddy (Montagu Love), who promises to return to see her again.
The extremely jealous Cora, thinking the guest is out to steal her man, forces Letty to marry one of her local two crude suitors, Lige (Lars Hanson) or Sourdough (William Orlamond), even if she doesn’t care for either man, or she will be given the boot. When suitor Roddy returns, he says he’s already married but wishes Letty to be his mistress. She rejects him, but with no fare money home the depressed Letty has no choice but to marry Lige, despite despising both him and the dustbowl’s constant howling prairie wind. Refusing to sleep with Lige in his bare shack, he respects her wishes and says he will earn money for her fare home. During a severe northerner, Lige goes on a cattle round-up while the scoundrel Roddy returns and attempts to rape Letty. In despair, Letty reluctantly kills the aggressive Roddy with his own gun. When Lige returns, Letty informs him that she learned to love him and is no longer afraid of the wind or wants to leave.
For Seastrom, he had enough of Hollywood after this interference incident by the studio suits and he fled back to Sweden.
REVIEWED ON 9/15/2011 GRADE: A