Lillian Gish in "The Scarlet Letter"

Only Lillian Gish, the ordained “First Lady Of The Silent Screen,” could have pushed such a morally challenging script past the rigid censor board of the American film industry in the Twenties! Gish plays the time-honored role of Hester Prynne, a woman shunned by her puritanical township after a romantic dalliance (and subsequent childbirth) with the village minister. Gish’s stamp of approval was enough to send this adaptation of Nathanial Hawthorne’s literary classic quickly into a production helmed by prominent Swedish director Victor Sjöström, whose seasoned visual mastery gives the film’s rural American locales a richly detailed sheen. As well, the performances by Gish and co-star Lars Hanson are electric, yielding one of the most emotionally tempestuous films of the era. It’s a total lovelorn barnburner — culminating in an on-screen embrace so romantically charged, so utterly cathartic that it’s bound to set your heart on fire.

Dir. Victor Sjöström, 1926, 35mm, 115 min. (Restored 35mm print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preservation funded by the Packard Humanities Institute. Restored in cooperation with George Eastman House, the British Film Institute, and Warner Brothers.)

Watch our trailer for “The Scarlet Letter”!