TCM MAY 5 Tuesday
In this silent short, a rancher's daughter runs off with a Native.
Cast: Mary Pickford, Henry B. Walthall, Francis J. Grandon. Dir:
D.W. Griffith. C-17 mins,
TCM MAY 5 Tuesday
Ramona, A Story of the White Mans Injustice to the Indian (Biograph 1910), which was release May 23, 1910 filmed at Rancho Camulos, Piru and San Gabriel, California. The Library of Congress has a copy of this film and it is very much in public domain with a copy of the full film available on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PE8Q9f9e5Y DW Griffith's Ramona on YouTube
Mary Pickford Ramona, a half-Scottish, half-Indian girl
Henry B. Walthall Alessandro
Francis J. Grandon Felipe, Ramonas stepbrother
Kate Bruce Ramonas stepmother
W. Chrystie Miller The Priest
Gertrude Claire Woman in West
Frank Opperman Ranch hand
Anthony OSullivan Ranch hand
Jack Pickford A boy
Mack Sennett White Exploiter
Charles West Native American man in chapel
Dorothy West Woman in chapel
Ramona, a young girl growing up on her adoptive mother's rancho in
TCM: Turner Classic article
by Bret Wood
It is unfortunate that the reputation of pioneer filmmaker D.W. Griffith will forever be stained by the virulent racism of his 1915 epic The Birth of a Nation. The controversy surrounding that film has blinded many viewers to the fact that
One such film is Ramona: A Story of the White Man's Injustice to the Indian (1910), made during his fruitful tenure at American Biograph. Based on the popular novel by Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona tells the story of a woman of mixed descent (Mary Pickford), who is wooed by a prosperous Spaniard: Felipe (Francis J. Grandon). She is instead attracted to Alessandro (Henry B. Walthall), a Native American peon. In spite of her mother's disapproval, Ramona elopes with Alessandro and gives up a life of material comfort for a shack salvaged from the ruins of Alessandro's Indian village (recently destroyed by whites). With their infant child, they are persecuted and displaced by those who govern the
Ramona and Alessandro's predicament worsens when, in an altercation with a white man who is again driving them from the land, Alessandro is shot in the face. Felipe, meanwhile, has taken it upon himself to aid Ramona and Alessandro. He ventures into the wilderness in search of his former love, only to find her in the midst of yet another improvised funeral.
Ramona was not
What is significant about Ramona is that it doesn't merely divide the population into the suffering Native Americans and the cruel whites. It depicts the Spanish Californians as occupying a position between the two extremes. They are prosperous, proud, but their minds are not clouded by the prejudices that torment the whites. Felipe is willing to have Ramona for his wife, and stand by her after she has rejected him, even though it is discovered she is of mixed descent (presumably Spanish and Indian).
On some levels,
Prior to being made as a film, the novel Ramona was adapted to the stage, and -- during his early career as an actor -- Griffith had performed in a West Coast touring production (in 1905, playing Alessandro). After the
Helen Hunt Jackson was not simply a novelist who used the plight of the Southern Californian Indian as an exploitable topic for popular literature. She was an activist who lobbied congress to improve the treatment of Native Americans. The tragedy of Ramona was a true story, which
In pursuit of authenticity,
In 1910, most of the film industry was still based in the New York/New Jersey area.
Although filmmakers had ventured into California in the past, and shot portions of their films there, Griffith earned the distinction of making the first studio picture shot entirely in Hollywood: In Old California (1910, the second film made on the trip).
A remarkable aspect of the films
In terms of film preservation, Ramona is a special film because it is one of the few Biograph titles of that period that survives with the original title cards. Probably for cost-saving reasons, Biograph removed the text when they were archiving the original negatives and paper prints. Most of the surviving Biograph films exist in this incomplete form.
Speaking of title cards, it should be noted that the narrative of Ramona unfolds in a style that may seem illogical to modern viewers. As was the norm in 1910, intertitles appear before each scene and basically spell out what is about to happen. This was common studio practice in an era when most filmmakers had not yet mastered the skills of purely visual storytelling, and viewers often needed a little help deciphering the stories.
Director: D.W. Griffith
Screenplay: D.W. Griffith and Stanner E.V. Taylor, Based on the novel by Helen Jackson
Cinematography: G.W. Bitzer
Music: Maria Newman (2009)
Cast: Mary Pickford (Ramona), Henry B. Walthall (Alessandro), Francis J. Grandon (Felipe), Kate Bruce (The Mother).
Silent film gains dramatic score: Empyrean Ensemble program features debut of Ortizs music for Pickfords Ramona from 1910
By Dave Jones
UC Davis professor and composer Pablo Ortiz has scored a dramatic new work to accompany a classic silent film, Ramona (1910), adapted from Helen Hunt Jacksons novel of the same name a book about racial conflict in early California.
The world premiere of Ortizs new work, also titled Ramona (for violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, piano and percussion) is set for Jan. 25, to be performed by UC Davis Empyrean Ensemble, the universitys professional ensemble in residence, specializing in new music.
Ramona the film will be screened in the background as the ensemble plays Ortizs new work in the Mondavi Centers Studio Theatre. The Ramona project is part of the ensembles winter concert, Americana: American Themes in Music and Film, featuring four world premieres. (See the concert details and the complete program.)
The 16-minute-long Ramona, starring Mary Pickford and directed by D.W. Griffith, centers on oppressed love between Ramona, from an aristocratic Mexican family, and Alessandro, a California mission Indian.
Ortiz has written movie soundtracks before, but never a piece for a silent film.
I am trying to write loosely following the style of early silent film music, Ortiz said by e-mail. In silent movies, romantic scenes, for instance, would have romantic music, but not always necessarily composed for the specific film.
In other words, a pianist or organist would have a repertoire of pieces intended for certain types of scenes (the storm scene, the hot pursuit scene, the kiss) that s/he would use for different movies.
Here I take this notion and revive it to an extent, by alluding and loosely quoting some works from the repertoire.
He gave these examples: A baby dies, and I allude in my music to Mahlers Kindertotenlieder; the luck of Ramona and Alessandro changes overnight, and I allude to Schonbergs Transfigured Night.
Ortiz continued: I had a lot of fun writing these allusions into the work, and even if you are unable to detect them in the piece, they still provide a certain context.
The composer credited the Empyrean Ensembles directors, Kurt Rohde and Laurie San Martin, for being brave enough to go through with the program.
Ortiz said he started the project with an idea from Alan S. Taylor, professor of history, who imagined an Empyrean Ensemble concert of patriotic songs and American-themed compositions.
I decided to work on the concept, Ortiz said, and though the process I had conversations with my colleague (Professor) Chris Reynolds, who works on allusions in music.
Ortiz also contacted Scott Simmon, professor of English, who, as an expert on early American film, works with the National Film Preservation Foundation. The foundation has issued three DVD sets, all curated by Simmon. The third of these sets came out in 2007; it is titled Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900-1934 and it includes Ramona.
Simmon said the source film is in excellent condition for its age, having been preserved by the Library of Congress from a print donated by Pickford.
With Ramona the book, which carries the subtitle A Story of the White Mans Injustice to the Indian, Hunt Jackson was trying to motivate reform through fiction, according to Simmons notes that accompany the DVD set. Soon after the book's publication, Ramona came to be regarded as essentially a true story, Simmon said.
Ortiz adds further life to the film. My piece is very dramatic indeed, he said. It should make you cry.
On the Net
National Film Preservation Foundation: filmpreservation.org