Lady Helen's Escapade

Lady Helen's Escapade is a short American comedy film produced in 1909, directed by D. W. Griffith. It is about the escapades of Lady Helen working as a domestic in a boarding house.

Lady Helen's Escapade
Variety advertisement April 1909.jpg
Advertisement in Variety for this film and other Biograph releases, April 1909
Directed byD. W. Griffith
Written byStanner E.V. Taylor
StarringFlorence Lawrence
David Miles
Anita Hendrie
Owen Moore
Dorothy West
Herbert Prior
Mack Sennett
John R. Cumpson
Arthur V. Johnson
Vivian Prescott
Dorothy Bernard
CinematographyG.W. Bitzer
Distributed byAmerican Mutoscope and Biograph Company
Release date
  • April 19, 1909 (1909-04-19)
Running time
8 minutes
CountryUnited States

In 2004, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for the National Film Registry.[1][2][3]


Lady Helen (Florence Lawrence) is a wealthy yet immensely bored woman who lives in a luxurious home with her three servants. In seek of adventure, she answers a help wanted in the newspaper and goes slumming as a domestic servant in a boarding house. She makes ludicrous efforts to cook, serve food, and clean, however the men living in the boarding house are enamored with her beauty and charm enough to overlook her incompetence. Among the boarders is a tall handsome violinist (David Miles), whose kindness and musical talent stand out among the crass manners of the other men. Helen and the violinist's romance inspires jealousy among the other maid, who conspire to get rid of Helen by framing her for the theft of the musician's violin. Although the violinist believes Helen is innocent, she is still fired and sent away. Helen soon reveals her true identity and reunites with the musician. After their reunion, Helen secures the violinist a position as a director at a conservatory.[1]



As was the case with most of the films Griffith made during this period, most of the film's props and costumes were recycled from other productions. Lawrence, the film's star, creatively utilized the recycled costumes to stand out and support her character, and some writers credit her work in Lady Helen's Escapade as the first to use of costume design.[4]

The film has a large cast that often appeared in the same scene—as many as nine performers appeared simultaneously in a single shot—so Griffith could not use close-ups to convey meaning and emotion. To compensate for this, the actors had to exaggerate their movements and gesticulations. As a result, much of the acting in the film resembles traditional stage performance rather than the more subtle performances associated with film.


  1. ^ Lady Helen's Escapade at
  2. ^ "Librarian of Congress Adds 25 Films to National Film Registry". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-11-18.
  3. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-11-18.
  4. ^ Eagan, Daniel. (2010). America's film legacy : the authoritative guide to the landmark movies in the National Film Registry. National Film Preservation Board (U.S.). New York: Continuum. p. 17. ISBN 9781441116475. OCLC 676697377.

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