Lillian Gish


Directed by                     Victor Seastrom
Produced by                   Victor Seastrom
Screenplay by                 Frances Marion
Based on                          The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Starring                            Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson
Cinematography             Hendrik Sartov
Editing by                        Hugh Wynn
Distributed by                 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date                     8 January 1927
Running time                   98 mins
Country                            United States
Language                          Silent, English intertitles


The film is still under copyright, which prevents us from streaming it on our site.  We will be able to show you this masterpiece in 2021.


"The Scarlet Letter" (1926) is a powerful drama starring Lillian Gish. This film illustrates the work of our star director Victor Seastrom. 

Hester, played by Lillian Gish, is a young woman who is subjected to a public punishment: her legs and arms are locked in a wooden artifact, one of many inquisition devices made by creative and imaginative minds to torture fellow human beings for religious reasons.  Her horrible crime is that she went outside of her home trying to catch her canary that flew out of the cage during a religious holiday when she was supposed to stay at home.  Those were the Puritan times in colonial Boston.

The priest, who delivered the verdict, but not the actual sentence, is moved by the view of the suffering girl.  He gives her water and ends her torture.  Later they meet again and fall in love.  Then the priest has to leave for England and he asks Hester to marry him.  He is shocked to learn that she is the legal wife of another man, who has been absent for years and whom she does not love. 

Upon his return the priest finds out that Hester will be publicly punished yet again, this time for having a baby out of wedlock.  The priest, who is the baby's father, is ordered to extract from Hester a public confession about who is her fellow sinner.  She refuses to name the father of the child, and in private dissuades him from admitting adultery himself.  Hester is taken to the scaffold for public punishment and humiliation: she is ordered to wear for life on her chest the letter "A" for adulteress.

Then one day Hester's daughter becomes very sick.  The child is only saved by Hester's lost husband, a former doctor, who shows up during that time.  The man then forcefully inquires who is the child's father.  Hester doesn't intend to tell him, but the priest rushes in to see the child's condition and the secret is revealed.  Hester's husband says that he will not reveal to the world their secret, but that his punishment will be lifelong.

Although the priest is in poor health, Hester talks him into leaving Boston on a ship for another place to start a new life.  Hester's husband overhears this conversation and later tells the priest that he will follow them everywhere to prevent their happiness. 

Then the priest has to deliver a speech and he shocks the entire congregation with the admission that he is the father of Hester's child.  He also shows the letter "A" for adulterer that he burned on his chest.  The priest then suffers a fatal heart attack and dies in Hester's arms.

The film enjoys a strong rating in IMDB.


The Scarlet Letter (1926) on IMDb

Click to enlarge:

Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson in The Scarlet Letter 1926 director Victor Seastrom 11

   Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson