What Shall We Do with Our Old? (1911)    1 Stars


What Shall We Do with Our Old? (1911)
What Shall We Do with Our Old? (1911)

Director: D. W. Griffith

Cast: W. Chrystie Miller, Claire McDowell, Adolph Lestina

Synopsis: An elderly carpenter resorts to theft when his wife falls ill.






According to its opening title card, D. W. Griffith’s What Shall We Do with Our Old? is based upon an actual occurrence in New York, and addresses an obviously timeless problem of how society deals with an ageing population, particularly during times of economic difficulty. W. Chrystie Miller (Judith of Bethulia) is a carpenter whose loses his job because of his advancing years just as his wife (Claire McDowell – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, An American Tragedy) falls ill. Things become so desperate that the old man is forced to steal food to survive, but is inevitably caught (although Griffith neglects to show us the arrest). Although justice looks kindly upon him, it acts too late to save his ailing wife…

It’s strange how Griffith chose to cast the 37-year-old McDowell in the role of the wife. The only make-up used to pass her off as an old woman is an unconvincing grey wig, and the difference between her and the 68-year-old Miller is glaring. Despite that, the social commentary in the picture is of merit, and although it’s presented in terms which appear extremely simplistic today, it was no doubt quite powerful back in 1911.

(Reviewed 24th March 2015)

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