The Lonedale Operator is a 1911 short American drama film directed by D. W. Griffith, starring Blanche Sweet and written by Mack Sennett for the Biograph Company. The plot of the film involves a girl who takes over a telegraph station after her father takes ill. After the payroll for the town’s mine is delivered, two drifters try to steal the money. Their robbery is foiled because the girl is able to telegraph for help and then hold the would-be robbers off until help arrives. The Lonedale Operator includes “elements of romance, drama, suspense, Western, and even a bit of comedy near the end.
Unlike most films at the time which had a simple plot line set in one location, The Lonedale Operator “intercuts three primary spaces—the telegraph office interior, the criminals outside, and the rescue train.” Although audiences in 1911 were not used to such editing, the use of the telegraph helped them understand the crosscutting between scenes in such a way that they could follow the plot. The film is also significant for Griffith’s use of a close-up of a wrench, which the girl had pretended was a gun. At the time of the film’s release, close-ups were still uncommon. The Lonedale Operator illustrates Griffith’s growing mastery of the medium.
A print of the film survives in the film archive of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The Lonedale Operator was remade in 2005 by students at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences who shot the film against a green screen and then digitally added the backgrounds