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Orphans of the Storm (1921)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

In D.W. Griffith's lengthy melodramatic epic - a box-office failure - about the French Revolution in 18th century Paris, with its tale of two orphaned half-sisters that were separated during the Reign of Terror - including the spectacular crowd scenes of the revolutionary storming of the Bastille:

  • the opening sequence of two orphaned foundling babies to be abandoned to charity and deposited on the steps of Notre Dame Cathedral, but brought up together in the home of impoverished Jean Girard, the father of one of the girls - they grew up to be half-sisters: Henriette Girard (Lillian Gish) and Louise (Dorothy Gish) (the result of a high-born mother involved in an unwed mother scandal)
  • due to the effects of the Plague, Louise was blinded and both half-sisters were again orphaned

Louise (Dorothy Gish)

Henriette Girard (Lillian Gish)

The Two Sisters
  • outside Paris after their coach broke down, the kidnapping scene in which virginal Henriette was abducted and held at the palace of corrupt, cruel, lascivious and amoral aristocrat Marquis de Praille (Morgan Wallace) during a lavish party at his palace, while the blind Louise was seized by a family of thieves led by Mother Frochard (Lucille La Verne), who then forced her to beg for money
  • the sequence of Henriette being rescued by kind-hearted, effeminate and honorable aristocrat Chevalier de Vaudrey (Josef Schildkraut) who realized her plight, took her away from the palace, and was also smitten by her
Other Major Characters

Danton (Monte Blue)

Mother Frochard (Lucille La Verne)

Chevalier de Vaudrey
(Josef Schildkraut)

Jacques-Forget-Not (Leslie King)

Pierre Frochard (Frank Puglia)

Maximilien Robespierre (Sidney Herbert)
  • the highly dramatic scene of Henriette believing that she heard the singing voice of her blind, helpless, and kidnapped half-sister Louise Girard in the street below her boarding house ("In my dreams I hear - I must be losing my reason"); but when she was convinced it was her sister, she raced to the balcony to call out to Louise ("Don't get excited - wait, I'll be there"), but was at the same time arrested by Count de Linieres (Frank Losee), Paris' Prefect of Police (and now the husband of Louise's birth mother, the Countess de Linieres (Katherine Emmet)), and detained in the Catholic "House of Fallen Women" run by nuns, while Louise was dragged away by Mother Frochard

Blind Louise Singing on Street Below

Henriette: "Singing. Don't you hear?"

Henriette's Balcony Above Louise
Henriette Calling Out: "LOUISE!"
Louise's Reaction
  • the sequence of the violent uprising by peasants and revolutionaries ("Down with tyrants!") led by political hero Danton (Monte Blue) and his fellow cohort Jacques-Forget-Not (Leslie King), the resultant end of the autocratic and tyrannical monarchy, and the establishment of a new government by Maximilien Robespierre (Sidney Herbert); Henriette was freed from the "House of Fallen Women"
  • however, soon after came the re-arrest of Henriette, when she was seen embracing her lover Chevalier de Vaudrey (in peasant garb), by the forces of Jacques-Forget-Not, and charged with "sheltering a returned aristocrat" - they were both brought before the Tribunal of the Reign of Terror, without a trial; during the sentencing, Henriette spotted her blind half-sister Louise in the audience and became overwhelmed with joy, but was not allowed to get close to speak to her; Chevalier was charged with "oppression and murder through countless generations" and both were condemned to be guillotined

Chevalier Disguised and Reunited with Henriette

Arrest of Both Henriette and Chevalier

Henriette Joyful at Recognizing Louise in Audience at Tribunal Hearing
  • the thrilling, cross-cutting 'race-to-the-rescue' scene (typical of director Griffith) of Henriette and Chevalier from the guillotine by Danton (with a pardon) seen riding on a white horse (with a reverse tracking shot), climaxing with a tearful reunion scene between the two sisters
Danton's Race-to-the-Rescue

Danton on White Horse Riding to the Rescue

With a Pardon at
Steps of Guillotine

Henriette Saved by Danton From the Guillotine

The Sisters Finally Reunited

End Shot: The Two Sisters Planning Their Marriages
  • in the conclusion, Henriette was to marry Chevalier, Louise's eyesight was miraculously restored, and she married Pierre Frochard (Frank Puglia), one of Mother Frochard's sons

Notre Dame Steps: Jean Girard with Two Baby Bundles

Louise Afflicted by Blindness

Sisters' Pre-Abduction Scene - With Marquis de Praille

Kidnapped Henriette: "My sister Louise - where is she?"

Beginnings of Love Between Rescued Henriette and Chevalier

Danton and Jacques-Forget-Not Leading the Successful Revolution Against the Autocratic Monarchy

Chevalier and Henriette About to Be Guillotined

Henriette On the Chopping Block


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