Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The Wind, Victor Sjostrom's final American film, is a western only in its locale: its symbolism-laden story of physical and spiritual repression, culminating in a violent, hysterical outburst, has more in common with the European or Scandanavian cinema than with the usual MGM product. Lillian Gish plays a sheltered Virginia girl who heads to Texas to live with her male cousin and his family. Upon arriving at her new home-actually little more than a squalid shack-she is treated as an unwelcome interloper. Even worse is the omnipresecent wind, which howls ceaselessly all around. To quell the jealousy of her cousin's wife, Lillian marries cowboy Lars Hanson, but this impulsive union seems foredoomed from the start. During Hanson's absence, Lillian is visited by former suitor Montague Love. With rape on his mind, Love laughs derisively as Lillian aims a pistol at his midsection. His laughter ceases when she pulls the trigger (the killing is subtly conveyed by a cutaway to a sand-covered plate, which jiggles slightly from the impact of the shot). In near hysteria, she drags the dead man outside and buries him, the mercilessly wind whipping and buffetting her about. Locking herself in the shack, Lillian looks out the window--and, in fascinated horror, sees Love's body "emerging" from the constantly shifting sands. In the film's original ending, Lillian goes completely mad, wandering blindly into the desert. Preview audiences were revolted by this denoument, so the film now ends with Larson's return and a happy reconciliation (reportedly, director Sjostrom's original cut is still available from European sources). In later years, Lillian Gish recalled The Wind as the toughest, most unpleasant picture she ever worked on. The location scenes were shot in the Mojave Desert, where the combination of relentless heat and artificially induced windstorms made working conditions virtually intolerable. At one point, Ms. Gish absentmindedly clutched the metal handle of her car's door-immediately incurring a second-degree burn. Adapted by Frances Marion from a novel by Dorothy Scarborough, The Wind, despite its artistic merit, was a box-office disappointment, resulting in a parting of the ways between Lillian Gish and MGM.
cowboy, drought, marriage, rape, silence, storm, survivor
High Budget, High Historical Importance, High Production Values