Tonight Joy and I watched “Broken Blossoms” (1919). Well, I watched it and Joy watched part of it (she was tired and fell asleep part way through). This is the oldest film I have in my DVD collection, and I found it very moving for a silent melodrama that’s almost a century old.

The film certainly stereotypes the Chinese character by today’s standards, but in 1919 the film was considered quite progressive and contains what may be the first portrayal on film of an interracial couple. The ending of the film is devastatingly sad, and there are numerous scenes throughout the film that convey a great deal of emotion. A scene that comes immediately to mind is Lillian Gish, locked in a closet, utterly terrified as her father breaks down the door with an axe. It is simply amazing to me that so much tension can be created in a film without sound.

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