The Silent Violins of D.W. Griffith

Over Christmas I stumbled across three charming silent films made between 1909 and 1910, all featuring violins as a central theme. All three were directed by D.W. Griffith with cinematography by Billy Bitzer. Griffith was an American director, writer, and producer who pioneered modern filmmaking techniques whilst Bitzer was an equally influential cinematographer who held a close professional association with D. W. Griffith throughout his career.

The Violin Maker of Cremona

The dramatic destruction of the winning instrument

The dramatic destruction of the winning instrument

The Violin Maker of Cremona appears to have first emerged as a play performed at the Comédie Francais, Paris, May 23, 1876. It’s script can be read here:

The film tells the story of the annual contest for the best violin in Cremona, but things turn serious when it is announced that the winner will marry the town's beauty. She has already fallen in love with one of the school's luthiers, but he is not the best maker there. After some comical switching of violins and switching back the film ends happily (?) when the winning luthier selflessly destroys his instrument, so that the second best maker – the town beauty’s true love – can win first prize.

Watch the film:

The Voice Of The Violin

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The Voice Of The Violin stars Arthur V. Johnson. Johnson is a musician, who makes a living teaching violin. He and his student Marion Leonard appear to hold lusty feelings towards one another, but Leonard rejects Johnson for being so poor that her father would never agree to the union. So Johnson decides to join a communist group and fight for equality of all. Right away he draws a lot to plant the next bomb in a rich man's house.  With the plot under way he realises that this is the home of his love interest, and he desperately tries to prevent the bomb from exploding.

Watch the film:


The Message of The Violin

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In The Message of The Violin a girl's family suddenly becomes rich and rejects her long-time sweetheart – he has to try to win her back.

Unfortunately, not all of this one is available for viewing, but you can get a taste in the short sample below. No violins appear in the sample, but I'm looking into getting ahold of the full film.

Watch short film preview: