Scarlet Days (1919)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - B-Western  |   Countries - USA  |  
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This D.W. Griffith picture has the distinction of being, arguably, the worst film that the director ever made. For starters, it's a western -- not one of Griffith's best subjects. And most of the characters are two-dimensional clich├ęs. Rosy Nell (Eugenie Besserer) is a dance-hall woman of the Old West. She has been paying for the education of her daughter (Carol Dempster) without telling the girl how she's been earning the money. When the daughter comes West for a surprise visit, she's met at the station by chivalrous bandit Alvarez (Richard Barthelmess) and a pair of miners. Meanwhile, Nell has gotten into a fight with another woman from the dance hall, Spasm Sal (Rhea Haines). Sal has a heart attack in the middle of the fight, and dies. Nell is accused of murdering her, but is saved from being lynched by Alvarez. King Bagley (Walter Long, in a typically villainous role), the dance hall's proprietor, leads an attack on Nell's cabin, but Alvarez uses himself and his notoriety as a distraction by turning himself in. He escapes from imprisonment, however, with the help of his fiery mistress Chiquita (Clarine Seymour), while Nell's daughter winds up with prospector John Randolph (Ralph Graves). Poor as it was, this was one of Dempster's few films for Griffith in which she was properly cast. On the other hand, Richard Barthelmess couldn't have been a poorer choice for Alvarez. Ironically, Dorothy Gish had recommended an actor to Griffith who probably would have been perfect: Rudolph Valentino. But Griffith mistakenly believed that foreign types were not appealing to women(!). Some critics of the day suspected that Griffith wasn't the only director on this film. They were right -- his assistant Elmer Clifton was practically co-director.

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Keywords

law, accusation, dance-hall, escape, false-accusation, gold-rush, killing, love, lynching, murder, on-the-run, outlaw [Western], prostitute/prostitution, rescue, romance, sheriff