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The Scarlet Letter

Scarlet Letter

1926 (Victor Sjostrom) , 115 minutes

Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson

On Sunday, Dec. 7, at 4:15 p.m., we are pleased to present the rarely screened 1926 version of The Scarlet Letter -- complete with live musical accompaniment by Fern Lindzon.  Guest expert Theresa Moritz, senior lecturer at Woodsworth College, will provide a brief introduction to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s  novel and its silent adaptation by masterful Swedish director Victor Sjöström (The Phantom Carriage).

 The Scarlet Letter is a remarkable piece of filmmaking, thanks in no small part to lead actress Lillian Gish. Gish stars as Hester Prynne, a woman condemned by her puritanical seventeenth-century community for the crime of adultery. Few actresses – silent or otherwise – have ever truly captured the spirit of Prynne, but Gish wordlessly embodies both the gravity and gaiety of one of American literature’s great protagonists.

Gish’s impact on the film extends behind the scenes, as well. The actress used her tremendous star-power to bring Hawthorne’s classic to the big screen (the book was actually on a list of books banned for film adaptation before Gish pushed for its production). “Only Gish could have gotten The Scarlet Letter past the censors of the late '20s and only she could have made it such an authentic American classic. “ (Turner Classic Movie)

 The Scarlet Letter screens as part of IT GIRLS: Sirens of the Silent Screen, Silent Revue’s on-going tribute to the first ladies of Hollywood. We will also be screening a D. W. Griffith-directed short starring Canada's own Mary Pickford, The New York Hat (1912).

The 16mm print has generously been provided by Media Commons at the University of Toronto.

By Alicia Fletcher