America would prove to be Griffith's biggest failure and it marked the beginning of the end of his career.
America tells the story of the American Revolution. Like many directors in the Silent film era, Griffith took on a big subject and focused it by telling a larger story through the lives of a few characters. The problem is Griffith got carried away with the larger story and lost focus of the smaller one and the film turned out to be a complete mess. Nathan Holden (Neil Hamilton) is a farmer and a Rebel. He's in love with Nancy Montague (Carol Dempster), a delicate British belle who sympathizes with the king. Though they are at odds politically, they fall in love. Charles Emmett Mack plays Charles Montague, Nancy's brother. He's got a dual personality. On the outside he's the epitome of British pomp and frill and privilege. On the inside, he deeply admires General George Washington and wants to fight with Nathan and the rebels, even though doing so would shame his father. Oh yeah and Lionel Barrymore is in there too as Captain Walter Butler.
It's a good concept but the story gets muddled. As a collection of American Revolutionary War reenactments, this film is superb. I was very impressed by the scenes of Paul Revere's midnight ride and the fact that they shot on location in places such Lexington, MA and Concord, MA (nearby towns for me). However, the main story gets lost in all these reenactments and the confused audience loses track of the characters and what they are doing. The title cards are horribly written, the characters hardly get any dialogue and we, as viewers, are left puzzled. Griffith threw tons of money at this movie and sincerely hoped it would be his next epic but it was cursed from the very beginning. Even his favorite actress, Lillian Gish, didn't want to be associated with the film (she was originally singled out to play Nancy Montague).
Charles Emmett Mack is only a minor character in this film and I wished his character would have been more substantial because I thought his storyline had potential. I managed to get some screen shots of him and I thought I'd share. Also, my new discovery, Neil Hamilton who was quite the looker.
Charles Emmett Mack
Here Mack's Character Montague meets and embraces General George Washington.
Fighting with the rebels!