D.W. Griffith’s The Battle at Elder Bush Gulch

Guess what? Today is the release 98th anniversary of D.W. Griffith’s The Battle at Elder Bush Gulch. Here’s an easy five step plan to fully enjoying this Biograph short!

1. Please do not offer me guff about the release date. It was made in 1913, released in Germany for some murky reason in 1913, but the official U.S. release date was March 28, 1914. ‘Nuff said.

2. Do not give me guff about the title. It is often also known as The Battle of Elder Bush Gulch, but the official release title is The Battle at Elder Bush Gulch.

3. Take a moment to marvel that there are people in this world who feel so passionate about silent films as to argue about release dates and titles 98 years after the fact. Please give yourself a round of applause.

4. Also take a moment to marvel that in a mere 19 minutes or so, this little melodrama has the all the hallmarks of later Griffith epics, including a demonized minority, an over sentimentalized yet also vaguely misogynistic view of women, Lillian Gish, and a whole lot of excitement.

5. Go watch The Battle at Elder Gulch on this marvelous (and steam powered, I’m convinced) contraption we call the interwebs.

About prettycleverfilmgal

Social media consultant, blogger for hire, and lover of classic movies and silent films. I often watch, consider, and write about movies when I should really be doing other things.

Posted on March 28, 2012, in Genre, Silent Film and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m a big fan of D.W. Griffith’s work at Biograph — he was busy inventing what we think of as movies. That said, you can also see all the bad habits that would sink him in the 1920s. But if you ever sit down and watch a few hundred silent movies in something like chronological order, Griffith’s Biograph work really leaps off the screen.

  2. I completely agree with you. Griffith is a bit of a problematic figure for a lot of reasons, but watching his work is always exciting. He was sophisticated in ways that others were not at the time, especially in terms of narrative structure and depicting action. I love his Biograph work, because it’s all there from the get go – both the good and bad habits that would be writ larger later on.

    And also, he was a lucky s.o.b. to find Lillian Gish and to have her in so many of his films.

  3. I wont give you any Guff, but, how could you not mention that this film is blessed by the presence of Elmo “Tickle Me He’s So Hot” Lincoln and Joseph “Who the Hell Is He” McDermott???

    Actually, I agree with Mythical Monkey on the Biograph years. When people think of Griffith’s films, they think “epics.” I feel quite the opposite. Griffith was a master storyteller within the short story format, and brilliant at getting the quiet, small moments to register “big.” Gish came in at the very end of the single-reel period, and fortunately for Griffith she was his biggest asset when feature films swept the small dramatic films from the screen. No one could register those subtle emotions as well; her small moments in his bigger films are usually the best things in them.

    Griffith’s decline in Hollywood mirrored the decline of the independent producer, he was never able or truly willing to work with a “system.” The one exception was the Biograph period, before he believed his own genius, filmmaking was still a cottage industry, and he was still used to working for someone else, quite simply. One more thing, controversial, but I think true. His alcoholism which picked up steam in Twenties, coupled with his life-long obsession with young women, made it difficult for him to continue to produce his art at the same level as 10, 15 or 20 years earlier, and eventually made him unemployable. Just my opinion, of course.

    • Ha! I wondered if anyone would notice that the awesomely named Elmo Lincoln and the international man of mystery Joseph McDermott were not only in this little flick, but specifically not mentioned by me. Still hard to believe anyone’s following along here. I feel like I should award you a prize of some sort. (My Hitchcock Barbie is not eligible.)

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