The Greatest Question

The Greatest Question is a 1919 American drama film directed by D. W. Griffith.[1][2] Based upon a novel by William Hale, the film has a plot involving spiritualism.

The Greatest Question
Robert Harron and Lillian Gish
Directed byD. W. Griffith
Produced byD. W. Griffith
Written byStanner E.V. Taylor
Based onA novel
by William Hale
Music byAlbert Pesce
CinematographyG. W. Bitzer
Edited byJames Smith
Distributed byFirst National Pictures
Release date
  • December 28, 1919 (1919-12-28)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)


As described in a film magazine,[3] Nellie Jarvis (Gish), daughter of a wandering couple, when very young witnesses the murder of a woman by a man and his wife. Years later, "Little Miss Yes'm," as Nellie is known, returns to the scene of the crime as an orphan. Mr. Hilton (Fawcett) and his wife (Besserer), though poverty stricken, take her into their family. Finding the Hiltons are in financial straits, she goes to a nearby farmhouse and gets employment from Martin Cain (Nichols) and his wife (Crowell). Here she is prosecuted, beaten and tormented. The farmer seeks to assault her and she recognizes in him the man who murdered the woman years before. In the meantime, Mrs. Hilton has appealed to her dead son and God to relieve the family from poverty. The spirit of the dead son returns and on the following day oil is found on the land. Jimmie Hilton (Harron), Little Miss Yes'm's sweetheart, rushes to the Cain's to get her. He reaches her in time to save her from torture by the depraved Cains. The Hiltons become wealthy and there is a happy ending.



  1. "Progressive Silent Film List: The Greatest Question". Silent Era. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
  2. The AFI Catalog of Feature Films: The Greatest Question
  3. "Reviews: The Greatest Question". Exhibitors Herald. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. 10 (11): 57. March 13, 1920.
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