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#96. The Country Doctor, #97. Her Crowning Glory - Review

With over a century’s worth of sophistication and context behind us, viewing the silent pictures of the early 20th Century is more an experience judged by the emotions evoked, not by the mastery of the filmmaker. Even so, after watching D. W. Griffith’s The Country Doctor and Laurence Trimble’s Her Crowning Glory, I would dare argue that while modern cinema has matured, the art of visual storytelling is still very much the same.

Griffith’s tearjerker is a short, but effective examination of the Hippocratic Oath, and just how far a doctor must go to care for his community. Watching it with modern-eyes, the film’s silent build-up and execution is as powerful as it is quaint. While very much limited by the technology at his disposal, Griffith was able to craft a compelling cinematic passage, defined by a singular sorrow that can be universally understood. The Country Doctor is not an example of simple storytelling, but drama at its purest.

Equally entertaining but filled with a welcome tone of irreverence was Trimble’s Her Crowning Glory. The film provides a glimpse into the sweetly dysfunctional relationship had between a loving widower and his young, imprudent daughter. When he begins to fall in love with her Rapunzel-esque nanny, the jealous daughter sets out to clip the blossoming relationship. The nanny’s treatment is cruel and often hilarious, but what is most disturbing is the father’s lack of empathy for the poor woman he once loved; perhaps a brief look at the blatant inequality between men and women in the early 1900s.

While understandably dated, both films display a mastery of the basic three-act structure employed by the majority of filmmakers working today. Without the benefit of a century’s worth of sophistication and context, directors like D.W. Griffith and Laurence Trimble laid the groundwork for all of the visual storytellers that followed. 

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