The Son's Return

Early Griffith Biograph short featuring Mary Pickford. It mostly centers around blatantly Jewish father and mother, who in a desperate need for cash, attempt to murder their own son (who they can't recognize because he's wearing a disguise—a weird plot set up because he's returned home when they are in desperate need of cash, yet wants to "surprise" them in this time of need. Griffith was never the great screenwriter...).

On the aesthetic level, this is mostly tableaux style through and through, but Griffith does play with some sense of people moving through a dimensional space instead of a flat one. People enter and exit through the back of the frame as well as the front. Even some of the melodrama/humor is based around this fact that it isn't a flat left to right space. I highly doubt Griffith pioneered this, but it did strike me as someone clearly thinking about non-theatrical space. This short also features a key insert/POV shot that was necessary for the plot. Not a first, but keenly utilized.