Get local news delivered straight to your phone
We can't make City Paper without you
When director D.W. Griffiths and actress Lillian Gish collaborated on The Birth of a Nation in 1915, audiences were treated to three hours of racist propaganda that culminated in the Ku Klux Klan rescuing white residents in the Reconstruction-era South. The pair’s later collaboration, Way Down East, while not exactly cheerier, at least contains less overt hatred. Way Down East, a silent film originally released in 1920, tells the story of Anna, a poor young woman tricked into a fake marriage by a handsome man-about-town. No longer a virgin, Anna seeks a job with Squire Bartlett and rejects the advances of his son, David, aiming to keep her “condition” a secret. Nevertheless, Squire Bartlett finds out, fires Anna, and soon, she’s floating in a frozen river, only to be rescued by David at the last minute. Sure, the 95-year-old film highlights appalling attitudes toward women and lacks the joy of traditional holiday entertainment, but at the National Gallery of Art, you’ll get to see the silent film as it was intended: backed by a live orchestra. The film shows at 2 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art, 6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. nga.gov.