True Heart Susie (1919)

“Do men look for the true heart in women? Or are most of them caught by the net of paint, powder, and suggestive clothes?”

Synopsis:
A “plain” country girl (Lillian Gish) secretly loves her handsome neighbor (Robert Harron), and helps pay for his college education by selling her family’s cow. Upon his return, she expects him to court her for marriage, and is devastated when he’s seduced by a fun-loving seamstress (Clarine Seymour) instead.

Genres:

Review:
Among the many Peary-listed films Lillian Gish made with D.W. Griffith — including The Birth of a Nation (1915), Hearts of the World (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), and Orphans of the Storm (1921)True Heart Susie is the sweetest and least complicated. It tells the touching tale of a naive country girl (Gish) who genuinely believes that her ambitious yet sincere young neighbor (Harron) is meant to be her future husband, and gives up her beloved cow towards this good cause; Harron’s continued oblivion of Gish’s feelings — and Gish’s shifting reactions (from blind optimism to heartbroken acceptance) — form the emotional backbone of the film, which is ultimately little more than a love triangle involving a deceptive vamp. It’s Gish’s performance which really elevates the movie above its somewhat predictable material: watching her face as she learns about Harron’s engagement, one is reminded once again about her status as silent cinema’s most accomplished actress.

Note: The life-story of handsome Harron — who had earlier co-starred in the modern episode of Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) — is quite tragic and mysterious; he died from a gunshot wound the year after this film was released, under shadowy circumstances (was it suicide or an accident?).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Lillian Gish as Susie
  • Robert Harron as William
  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly recommended for Gish’s nuanced performance. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book, though I’m honestly not quite sure why.

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One Response to “True Heart Susie (1919)”

  1. Not a must. First viewing.

    Slight, light entertainment from the normally more epic-minded Griffith. A number of the director’s smaller films are even, in some way, more epic in scope than this.

    Though not a bad film, it’s fairly predictable – perhaps catering to less-demanding audiences of its day.

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