The Press Gang; or, A Romance in the Time of King George III (1908)
Short | Drama
The plot of this picture is laid in the early reign of King George III, at Portsmouth, England, and the surrounding country. John Southwell, a gentleman of limited means, is sitting on his porch reading a newspaper as a servant enters and hands him a letter. Opening it he reads: "Your debts to me for money loaned fall due in a month. I am willing to take your daughter Phoebe in marriage and cancel them. If not, I shall have yon arrested for debt. I shall come tonight for my answer. (Signed! JOHN HARBOLD." Southwell seems disturbed and calls his daughter and shows her the letter. Phoebe reads it, shakes her head, evidently refusing the offer. She endeavors to comfort her father. He kisses her affectionately and goes slowly into the house, while Phoebe falls into a chair despondently. Squire Harbold, a coarse, middle-aged man, enters, advances to the girl and bows. He immediately makes known his errand, and as Phoebe shakes her head his manner becomes threatening. Then, altering his demeanor, the Squire puts his arm around her and tries to kiss her. The girl is struggling to escape as Arthur Irwin, her accepted suitor, rushes into the garden, throws the older man to the ground and puts his arm protectingly around his sweetheart. Harbold gains his feet, is about to attack the young lover, then changes his mind and walks away, vowing vengeance. At a low tavern by the water side, with low ceilings and blackened walls, Tim, the head of the Press Gang, with several of his companions, are seated around loafing and drinking as Harbold enters and orders drinks for everybody. He plans with Tim, pays him for the job and departs. On the street the arch-plotter comes upon Arthur, apologizes for what he has done, and the two start for the tavern, evidently forgetting the encounter of a short time before. Harbold calls for drinks, and at a signal from him, Tim comes over and picks a quarrel with Arthur. A general struggle takes place in which the young hero is knocked senseless and taken away by some sailors. He regains his senses to find himself on board a ship. Tim begs the captain to be allowed to go, but his supplications are met with derision. He refuses to obey orders and is about to be punished when a sailor rushes up to the captain and points to a fire in the hold. The sailors refuse to obey their superior's commands, and Arthur asks if his freedom will be granted if he will go. To this the captain agrees, and we follow the young man into the hold, where several barrels of powder are stored. In desperation, he removes the barrels, throws them overboard, comes to the deck and is allowed to go. With Arthur removed, Harbold, with two bailiff officers, proceeds to carry out his threat. Rather than see her poor father dispossessed, Phoebe determines to sacrifice herself. She agrees to wed Harbold, is going away with him as Arthur enters through the gate with a lawyer. A legal looking document is handed to the Squire, who looks at it, and in a rage turns to depart as the lawyer takes another document and hands it to the bailiff. They grab Harbold and hustle him away, while Arthur and Phoebe embrace each other and shake hands with her father over the happy turn of affairs.
Director:J. Stuart Blackton