TCM MAY 5 Tuesday
8:00 PM Ramona (1910)
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,

“Ramona, A Story of the White Man’s 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

The cast:

Mary Pickford              Ramona, a half-Scottish, half-Indian girl

Henry B. Walthall         Alessandro

Francis J. Grandon       Felipe, Ramona’s stepbrother

Kate Bruce                   Ramona’s stepmother

W. Chrystie Miller        The Priest

Dorothy Bernard

Gertrude Claire             Woman in West

Robert Harron

Dell Henderson             Man at burial

Frank Opperman          Ranch hand

Anthony O’Sullivan       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 California, falls in love with the Indian lad Alessandro. When Ramona is denied permission to marry Alessandro, the two lovers elope, only to find a life of great hardship and unhappiness amidst the bigotry and greed of the white landowners”.     






TCM: Turner Classic article

by Bret Wood




 Ramona (1910)

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 Griffith made a number of films seeking to expose and oppose racial prejudices.

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
California wilderness ("These lands belong to us!" say the white men). When their child dies, Ramona and Alessandro give it an impoverished, intimate funeral (a remarkably potent scene that foreshadows the baptism of the dead child in Griffith's Way Down East [1920]).

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
Griffith's first sympathetic depiction of Native Americans. He had made a number of Indian-themed films in upstate New York, the most significant being the empathetic 1909 picture The Red Man's View. At other times, however, Griffith would abandon his high-minded principles and revert to stereotypical depictions in order to fuel the drama of his films -- as with The Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1913), in which a group of white settlers are besieged by drunken Native American marauders.

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,
Griffith's "tolerance" films may seem to oversimplify complex race relations. But one must remember that, in 1910, cinematic storytelling was still in its childhood. Within the appropriate historical context, Griffith's films (Ramona, especially) should be considered quite progressive, and quite effective. The New York Dramatic Mirror called The Red Man's View, "symbolical of the fate of the helpless Indian race as it has been forced to recede before the advancing white, and as such it is full of poetic sentiment and artistic beauty."

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
Griffith film, Ramona was remade a number of times, with versions directed by Donald Crisp (1916, starring Adda Gleason), Edwin Carewe (1928, starring Dolores del Rio), and Henry King (1936, starring Loretta Young).

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
Jackson had read about in a newspaper. It inspired her to explore the Santa Clara River Valley, where she learned of the conditions of reservations and Indian schools. Her petitions to Congress -- calling for increased government support -- were unsuccessful, so she decided to fictionalize Ramona's experiences. Comparing her work to Harriet Beecher Stowe's revolutionary Uncle Tom's Cabin, Jackson said, "If I can do one-hundredth part for the Indian that Mrs. Stowe did for the Negro, I will be thankful."

Griffith could have written his own drama on the plight of the Native American, but he wanted to be sure Jackson's name was attached to the project, because of the renown she had earned with her novel. To this end, he convinced Biograph to pay her $100 for the screen rights to Ramona. According to Griffith biographer Richard Schickel, "it is possible that this was the first such sale in movie history."

In pursuit of authenticity,
Griffith shot the film on location in Camulos (Ventura County), California, where the story was set.

In 1910, most of the film industry was still based in the New York/New Jersey area.
Griffith was among the first high-profile filmmakers to explore the favorable climate and awesome scenery of the American West. He embarked on his California excursion with a group of about thirty cast and crew members, with the intention of shooting several projects during the winter months of 1910. Ramona was the second-to-last film Griffith shot on the trip west, but it was, according to Schickel, "the climax."

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
Griffith made at Biograph in the early 1910s is that they can pack an entire novel into a single reel (Ramona runs a mere 17 minutes). Equally impressive as the strides he was making in the aesthetic use of the camera is the fact that his films still maintain a dramatic resonance nearly a century after they were made. Other films of the era may possess stirring action and visual inventiveness, but extremely rare are those that can exert such a genuine emotional pull upon the 21st-century viewer.

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.
Griffith did have the gift of visual storytelling. As a result, these "spoiler" titles feel superfluous, and only slow down the progress of the story. For this reason, the Griffith Biograph shorts that survive without titles are only marginally compromised by the absence of text -- while the title-less films of other directors are quite often incomprehensible.

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).


UC Davis Home Page News & Information

Dateline UC Davis

News for Faculty and Staff of the University of California, Davis

Silent film gains dramatic score: Empyrean Ensemble program features debut of Ortiz’s music for Pickford’s Ramona from 1910

By Dave Jones

 Henry B. Walthall as Alessandro and Mary Pickford as Ramona in 1910 silent film.
 Henry B. Walthall as Alessandro and Mary Pickford as Ramona in 1910 silent film.

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 Jackson’s novel of the same name — a book about racial conflict in early California.

The world premiere of Ortiz’s 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 university’s professional ensemble in residence, specializing in new music.

Ramona the film will be screened in the background as the ensemble plays Ortiz’s new work in the Mondavi Center’s Studio Theatre. The Ramona project is part of the ensemble’s 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 Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder; the luck of Ramona and Alessandro changes overnight, and I allude to Schonberg’s 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 Ensemble’s 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 Man’s Injustice to the Indian,” Hunt Jackson was trying to motivate reform through fiction, according to Simmon’s 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

Recent Photos

Newest Members

Featured Products