Hearts of the World

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Hearts of the World
Hearts of the World poster.jpg
Hearts of the World lobby poster
Directed by D.W. Griffith
Produced by D.W. Griffith
Written by D.W. Griffith (credited as Capt. Victor Marier and M. Gaston de Tolignac)
Starring Lillian Gish
Dorothy Gish
Ben Alexander
Robert Harron
Cinematography Billy Bitzer
Alfred Machin
Hendrik Sartov (fr)
Edited by James Smith
Rose Smith
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 12, 1918 (1918-03-12)
Running time
117 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent
English intertitles
Hearts of the World

Hearts of the World (also known as Love's Struggle) is a 1918 American silent World War I propaganda film written, produced and directed by D. W. Griffith. In an effort to change the neutral mindset of the American public about the war, the British Government contacted Griffith to make the film due to his reputation for dramatic filmmaking and stature.[1][2]

Hearts of the World stars Lillian and Dorothy Gish and Robert Harron. The film was produced by D.W. Griffith Productions, Famous Players-Lasky Corporation and the War Office Committee was distributed by Paramount Pictures under the Artcraft Pictures Corporation banner.


Two families live next to one another in a French village on the eve of World War I. The Boy in one of the families falls for the only daughter in the other family. As they make preparations for marriage, World War I breaks out, and, although the Boy is American, he feels he should fight for the country in which he lives.

When the French retreat, the village is shelled. The Boy's father and the Girl's mother and grandfather are killed. The Girl, deranged, wanders aimlessly through the battlefield and comes upon the Boy badly wounded and unconscious. She finds her way back to the village where she is nursed back to health by The Little Disturber who had previously been a rival for the Boy's affections. The Boy is carried off by the Red Cross. Von Strohm, a German officer, lusts after the Girl and attempts to rape her, but she narrowly escapes when he is called away by his commanding officer.

Upon his recovery, the Boy, disguised as a German officer, infiltrates the enemy-occupied village, finds the Girl. The two of them are forced to kill a German sergeant who discovers them. Von Strohm finds the dead sergeant and locates the Boy and Girl who are locked in an upper room at the inn. It's a race against time with the Germans trying to break the door down as the French return to retake the village.


* Note 1: Appears in archival footage

Production notes[edit]

180px Photo taken during filming of the Hearts of the World in France. D. W. Griffith is in the photo in civilian clothing.

The British Government gave D.W. Griffith unprecedented access to film in locations that were otherwise restricted from journalists.[3] After being presented to George V and Mary of Teck, Griffith was introduced to members of London's aristocracy who agreed to appear in the film. Among them were Lady Lavery, Elizabeth Asquith, Diana Manners.[4] Playwright Noël Coward also appeared as an extra.

Exterior shots were largely filmed throughout England from May to October 1917.[5] Griffith made two trips to France where he filmed footage of the trenches. The film company returned to Los Angeles where British and Canadian troops recreated battle scenes and other interior scenes on a sound stage at Fine Arts Studio in Los Angeles from November to December 1917.[5][6] The scenes shot in Europe and Los Angeles were edited together with footage from stock newsreels.[2]

In a scene cut from the movie, actress Colleen Moore appeared as a little girl in her bed who, hearing the war raging beyond her window, was so frightened that she turned the hands of her alarm clock forward, hoping that time would rush forward to the end of the fighting.[7][page needed]


lobby card

Lillian Gish, the actress who portrayed 'The Girl', later said:[8]

"Hearts of the World enjoyed great success until the Armistice when people lost interest in war films. The film inflamed audiences. Its depiction of German brutality bordered on the absurd. Whenever a German came near me, he beat me or kicked me."

She also noted that:

"I don't believe that Mr. Griffith every forgave himself for making Hearts of the World. 'War is the villain,' he repeated, 'not any particular people.'"

Some historians have also noted that Hearts of the world and similar films encouraged a 'hysterical hatred' of the enemy which complicated the task of the Versailles peacemakers.[9]


A print of the film still exists and is held by the Cohen Media Group. The rights are now held in the public domain.[10]

See also[edit]

(World War I Propaganda films)


  1. ^ Shearer, Benjamin F. (2007). Home Front Heroes: A Biographical Dictionary of Americans During Wartime, Volume 2 2. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 362. ISBN 0-313-33422-6. 
  2. ^ a b Keil, Charlie; Singer, Ben (2009). American Cinema of the 1910s: Themes and Variations. Rutgers University Press. p. 209. ISBN 0-813-54445-9. 
  3. ^ Slide, Anthony, ed. (2012). D. W. Griffith: Interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 87. ISBN 1-617-03298-0. 
  4. ^ London Melvyn Stokes University College (2007). D.W. Griffith's the Birth of a Nation : A History of the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time: A History of the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time. Oxford University Press. p. 264. ISBN 0-198-04436-4. 
  5. ^ a b Cherchi Usai, Paolo; Bowser, Eileen (2005). Cherchi Usai, Paolo, ed. The Griffith Project: Films produced in 1916-18. British Film Institute. p. 157. ISBN 1-844-57097-5. 
  6. ^ Piette, Adam; Rawlinson, Mark (2012). The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-century British and American War Literature. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 61–62. ISBN 0-748-63874-1. 
  7. ^ Colleen Moore, Silent Star (1968)
  8. ^ What others said about "Hearts of the World" (from the 'Silents Are Golden' silent movies website. Retrieved August 16, 2007)
  9. ^ Willmott, H. P. (2003). First World War. Dorling Kindersley. p. 263. ISBN 1-405-30029-9. 
  10. ^ "Hearts of the World". silentera.com. April 21, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 

External links[edit]