An Unseen Enemy

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An Unseen Enemy
Still with Lillian and Dorothy Gish
Directed byD. W. Griffith
Written byEdward Acker
StarringLillian Gish
Dorothy Gish
Harry Carey
Elmer Booth
Robert Harron
CinematographyG. W. Bitzer
Music byRobert Israel (new score)
Distributed byGeneral Film Company
Release date
  • September 9, 1912 (1912-09-09)
Running time
15–16 minutes
(1 reel, full)
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)
Play film; runtime 00:15:17.

An Unseen Enemy is a 1912 Biograph Company short silent film directed by D. W. Griffith, and was the first film to be made starring the actresses Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish.[1] A critic of the time stated that "the Gish sisters gave charming performances in this one-reel film".[2] The film was shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey where early film studios in America's first motion picture industry were based at the beginning of the 20th century.[3][4][5] Consistent with practice at that time, the actors in the cast and their roles are not listed in the film.[6] (The car chase near the end was not filmed in Fort Lee. It began in Little Silver, NJ and ended in Oceanport, NJ, the movable Goose Neck Bridge connecting the two).


A physician's death orphans his two adolescent daughters. Their older brother is able to convert some of the doctor's small estate to cash. It is late in the day, and with the banks closed he stores the money in his father's household safe. The slatternly housekeeper, aware of the money, enlists a criminal acquaintance to help crack the safe. They lock the daughters in an adjacent room, and the drunken housekeeper menaces them by brandishing a gun through a hole in the wall. The resourceful girls use the telephone to call their brother who has returned to town. He gets the message and organizes a rescue party.[7]



Lillian and Dorothy Gish play the two sisters in peril in this "race to the rescue" film. To emphasize their sisterhood, they wear identical outfits, hairstyles, and perform similar gestures.[6] The other two films where the Gishes play sisters are The Lady and the Mouse (1913) and Orphans of the Storm (1922).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "An Unseen Enemy at Silent Era". Silent Era. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  2. ^ "The Biograph Collection". Still Moving: the Film and Media Collections of The Museum of Modern Art. Museum of Modern Art. 2006. p. 41.
  3. ^ Koszarski, Richard (2004), Fort Lee: The Film Town, Rome, Italy: John Libbey Publishing, ISBN 0-86196-653-8
  4. ^ "Studios and Films". Fort Lee Film Commission. Archived from the original on 2011-04-25. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  5. ^ "Fort Lee Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry", Fort Lee Film Commission, Arcadia Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-7385-4501-5
  6. ^ a b Mayer, Ruth (2020). "Unique Doubles: Ornamental Sisters and Dual Roles in the Transitional Era Cinema". Journal of Cinema and Media Studies. University of Texas Press: 13–19. ISSN 0009-7101. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  7. ^ "Plot Summary for An Unseen Enemy". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-01-27.

External links[edit]