AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Greatest Question
Director: D. W. Griffith (Dir)
Release Date:   28 Dec 1919
Duration (in feet):   6,224
Duration (in reels):   6
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Cast:   Lillian Gish (Nellie Jarvis)  
    George Fawcett (John Hilton)  
    Eugenie Besserer (Mrs. Hilton)  
    Robert Harron (Jimmie Hilton)  
    Ralph Graves (John Hilton, Jr.)  
    George Nichols (Martin Cain)  
    Josephine Crowell (Mrs. Cain)  
    Tom Wilson (Uncle Zeke)  

Summary: Four-year-old Nellie Jarvis witnesses the murder and burial of a girl by a man and his wife, but as she grows older, her memory of the event becomes vague. Nellie goes to live with the poor Hilton family after her parents die, but when John, the eldest son, goes to war, Nellie goes to work for the brutal Cains, who, unknown to her, murdered the girl. After John dies and Mrs. Hilton has a vision of him at the moment of death, the Hiltons, on the verge of selling their farm, go to John's grave where his ghost advises them to keep it. The next day oil is found on their land. The youngest Hilton son, Jimmie, who loves Nellie, goes to tell her the news and rescues her just as Mrs. Cain, who discovered her husband trying to rape Nellie, is about to murder her because Nellie now remembers them as murderers. The Cains are arrested and Nellie and Jimmie look forward to a happy future. 

Production Company: D. W. Griffith  
Distribution Company: First National Exhibitors' Circuit, Inc.  
Director: D. W. Griffith (Dir)
Producer: D. W. Griffith (Pres)
Writer: William Hale (Story)
Photography: G. W. Bitzer (Cam)
Music: Albert Pesce (Mus accompaniment Arr)
Country: United States
Language: English

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
D. W. Griffith 16/12/1919 dd/mm/yyyy LP14554

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Si:

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Family life
  Ghosts
  Memory
  Murder
  Recognition
  Visions
 
Subjects (Minor): Attempted murder
  Attempted rape
  Children
  Farms
  Oil
  Rescues
  War victims

Note: The continuity contains the subtitle "a story of the strange meandering river of life." The continuity also gives the names of the character played by George Nichols as "Martin Cain" and that played by Josephine Crowell as "Mrs. Cain," while reviews call them "Mr. and Mrs. Scrubble." Wid's credits D. W. Griffith with the scenario. Modern sources credit S. E. V. Taylor as the scenarist and James Smith as editor. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
ETR   10 Jan 20   p. 613.
MPN   10 Jan 20   p. 691.
MPW   10 Jan 20   pp. 298-99.
New York Morning Telegraph   13 Mar 20   p. 2526.
New York Times   29 Dec 19   p. 7.
Photoplay   1 Mar 20   p. 64.
Variety   2 Jan 20   p. 74.
Wid's   4 Jan 20   p. 5.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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