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Tragedy has appealed to audiences ever since screen drama was perfected during the early part of the twentieth century Their essential appeal ran to the same audience that existed for turn-of-the-century stage melodramas aimed mostly toward women who appreciated the diversion from their daily livesThe essential elements of screen tragedy -- which manifests itself most obviously in the so-called womens picture of the 1930s and early 1940s -- are a loyal and loving heroine or an admirable hero or both Not only must they have qualities that audiences can either identify with or aspire to they must also face the events in their lives with dignity and grace The most familiar tragic hero is Hamlet the Shakespearean Prince of Denmark whose only flaw is the inability to make decisions However few stage works can aspire to anything even resembling Hamlets depth or complexity Most popular stage melodrama never gets beyond the most superficial elements of tragedy That however proved enough for most movie audiences who devoured tragedy on a multitude of levels for decades The celebrated directorproducer DW Griffith was the most prominent purveyor of screen tragedy from the silent years His own sense of characterization was formed in the stage melodrama and he seldom advanced beyond that level in the characterizations of his own movies -- from Judith of Bethulia 1913 to Abraham Lincoln 1930 -- the latest of Griffiths extant movies The Struggle being generally unavailable he gave his characters the most easily understandable emotions and motivations which seem simplistic today but made his heroes and heroines among the most beloved of general film audiences of the late teens His heroines and heroes were always virtuous and trusting often to their initial undoing and this was a good representation of the way that audiences of the era wished to see themselves in the era before during and immediately after World War I Griffiths quintessential films are True Heart Susie and Broken BlossomsThe dawn
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