The Scarlet Letter (1926 film)

The Scarlet Letter is a 1926 American drama film, based on the 1850 novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and directed by Victor Sjöström.[1] Prints of the film survive in the MGM/United Artists film archives and the UCLA Film and Television Archive.[2]

The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter 1926 lobby card.jpg
Lobby card
Directed byVictor Sjöström
Produced byVictor Sjöström
Written byNathaniel Hawthorne
Frances Marion
StarringLillian Gish
Lars Hanson
CinematographyHendrik Sartov [fr]
Edited byHugh Wynn
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • August 9, 1926 (1926-08-09)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States



“Early in the film Gish, as Prynne, loses her bonnet chasing a songbird through a summer glade. When the wind catches her waist-long tresses, Gish appears for an instant as if she had stepped into a painting by Botticelli...Seastrom seizes on Gish’s sensuality throughout the film...bringing this largely faithful adaptation down squarely on the side of love and ardent sensuality.”— Film critic Paul Malcolm[3]

The film was the second one Gish made under her contract with M-G-M and a departure from the ingénue roles she had performed in service to director D.W. Griffith. (her first M-G-M picture was directed by King Vidor, an adaption of La bohème with co-star John Gilbert in which she played the pathetic consumptive, Mimi.)[4] She asked production manager Louis B. Mayer specifically to make The Scarlet Letter and he reluctantly agreed, due to M-G-M’s concern that censors would object to a frank depiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne's character, Hester Prynne, whose romantic indiscretions unleash a wave of reactionary bigotry. Director Seastrom disabused these expectations with an opening intertitle "establishing Pyrnee's [Gish's] ordeal as 'a story of bigotry uncurbed.'"[5]

Shooting took under two months. The production cost a total of $417,000 when factoring out $48,000 overhead costs.[6]


The film made a profit of $296,000.[7]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "AllMovie's review of The Scarlet Letter (1926)".
  2. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: The Scarlet Letter". Silent Era. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  3. ^ Malcolm, 2004
  4. ^ Durgnat and Simmons, 1988: p. 75-76: In both films Gish plays "the self-sacrificial lover..."
  5. ^ Malcolm, 2004: “Gish was the project’s prime mover as she sought more mature roles after playing ingenues for D. W. Griffith.” And: “...Gish’s wholesome reputation [established under her D.W. Griffith films] put censorship groups at ease [anticipating] a most chaste Hester Prynne.” expected from Gish. And: An opening intertitle reads "a story of bigotry uncurbed."
  6. ^ Slide, Anthony. "Those Elusive Budget Figures". Silent Topics: Essays on Undocumented Areas of Silent Film. Scarecrow Press, 2005, p. 25.
  7. ^ Scott Eyman, Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer, Robson, 2005 p 125
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  9. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.


  • Durgnat, Raymond and Simmon, Scott. 1988. King Vidor, American. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0-520-05798-8
  • Malcolm, Paul. 2004. The Scarlet Letter, 1926. UCLA Film and Television Archive: 12th Festival of Preservation, July 22-August 21, 2004. Guest festival guide.

External linksEdit