Director Henry King spent his early show business career trouping through the American heartland in vaudeville, circus, burlesque, and stock, eventually becoming an actor for the Lubin Company, in Philadelphia, in 1912. He soon switched to directing, working for a variety of producers before finding success with Thomas H. Ince, and in 1921 he cofounded Inspiration Pictures with the actor Richard Barthelmess. Tol'able David, about a sensitive young boy who endures the abuse of a brutal neighboring family as well as accusations of cowardice from his fellow townsfolk, was their first and greatest success. The screenplay, based on the story by the popular author Joseph Hergesheimer, was adapted by King and Edmund Goulding. King imbued the film with an affection for rural life that is untainted by false sentiment and which is based on his own observations of American types, made while traveling the country as an actor. Barthelmess drew upon his experience as a member of D. W. Griffith's stock company to breathe life into the character of David, an innocent dreamer who must grow up all too quickly.
Publication excerpt from Steven Higgins, Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 77.