Although the picture consumes only 90 minutes, it somehow seems draggy, for the reason that everything other than the scenes with the three principals seems extraneous and tends to clog the progression of the tale.
Broken Blossoms is adapted from a story by Thomas Burke entitled The Chink and the Child. The footage allotted the titles is a point to be commended, ample time being allowed to read them slowly and digest their meaning.
The story is a drama of pathos, culminating in tragedy. A pure-minded young Chinaman, reared in the beautiful teachings of Buddha, journeys to London with the altruistic idea of civilizing the white race.
In London there resides in his vicinity a brutish prize-fighter who beats his child into helplessness and she crawls away, half dead, falling insensible into the shop of the Mongolian. With perhaps a whiff of the lilied pipe still in his brain, he finds her on the floor, carries her to his living room above and watches over her with a love so pure as to be wholly unnatural and inconsistent.
Lillian Gish as the girl, shrinking, self-effacing, timid, fearful and wistful, has never before done anything so fine. Donald Crisp is the brutal father, as great a triumph of histrionic artistry as that registered by Gish.
Yet not one whit behind these two masterful portrayals is that of Richard Barthelmess as the young Chinaman, idealized, necessarily, in the matter of facial attractiveness, yet visualizing to the full the gentle delicacy of the idyllic Oriental youth.