director Victor Sjöström
The Mojave Desert stands in for the godforsaken dustbowl of Texas in Victor Sjöström’s The Wind. With the help of airplane engines and propellers to whip that dust up.
It’s a gorgeous film, and it’s all Sjöström and star Lillian Gish, the latter of whom selected the source material, writers, actors, and director Sjöström for what would be MGM’s, Sjöström ‘s, and Gish’s final major Silent Film, made at the very end of the Era. Though it was a commercial and critical failure in its day, The Wind is considered one of the finest films of its time.
Gish plays Letty, an East Coast middle class girl, come by train to the windblown outpost where her childhood friend Beverly (Edward Earle) lives with his suspicious wife, Cora (Dorothy Cumming) and their rambunctious children. Cora quickly sours on Letty and forces her out of the house and into marriage with one of three pursuers, none of which Letty cares much for.
The intense wind and the cruel fates nearly drive Letty mad. And it’s impossible to hear about the original bleak ending (considered apocryphal by some, though how the original novel ends), without wishing the film had ended that way.
Sjöström’s mise-en-scène is gloriously bleak, verging on the surreal at times. But Gish herself is the key part of that mise-en-scène.
Truly, a great film.