Seduced into a mock marriage by village womanizer Lennox Sanderson (Sherman), naive New England farm girl Anne (Gish) finds herself cast out by the cad when she announces that she’s pregnant, and then further tragedy ensues. The luckless gal finally secures work at a farm managed by strict Squire Bartlett (McIntosh) and attracts the romantic interest of his kind, educated son David (Barthelmess). But Anne’s shame stands in the way of true happiness.
Screen legend Lillian Gish delivers a strong, deeply affecting performance in Griffith’s fervid soap opera about an “illegitimate” rube attempting to move beyond her tragic past. Based on a Victorian stage play that Griffith purchased for a hefty sum at the time ($175,000), “Way Down East” delivers tender romance as well as grand scenes of melodramatic suspense, most notably the astonishing ice-floe scene that the film is best remembered for. Don't miss this timeless folktale presented by one of the screen's great pioneers, and graced by Gish’s heart-wringing portrayal of innocent abjection.