A coal miner says good-bye to his wife and children, and heads off to work. He reaches the mine, prepares his lamp, and then descends into the mine along with some other workers. As he and ... See full summary »
This is a lesser example of Griffith's series of shorts concerned with social problems, like WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH OUR OLD? and ONE IS BUSINESS, THE OTHER CRIME. It is, according to its first title, "suggested by Press Comment on the Tramp Evil." Billy, a poor bootblack, played by Edna Foster, decides to try finding a town where business is better. On the road he meets with two tramps, played by Donald Crisp and Joseph Graybill. They force him to beg for them, and then rob and kill an old man.
At this point, Billy protests and they decide to kill him. They lock him in a shack while they decide which of them is to do the evil deed. Billy is rescued when a friendly dog carries a plea to help to a rich family in the neighborhood. They subdue the tramps and adopt Billy.
Some of what I consider to be weakness in the story -- the randomness of the tramps' crimes -- may well be an artifact of the short length of this film and the contemporary view of tramps. It may also be an attempt to tell the story from Billy's point of view, in which adults' actions seem capricious. Also, Griffith offers no clear solution to the problem; but he never did. He always seemed more interested in stating a problem than solving it.
In any case, this particular short, while done well enough, suffers from these uncertainties. While not bad, it is certainly understandable that this is not one of Griffith's better-known pieces.
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