Young Pauline is left a lot of money when her wealthy uncle dies. However, her uncle's secretary has been named as her guardian until she marries, at which time she will officially take ... See full summary »
An immigrant leaves his sweetheart in Italy to find a better life across the sea in the grimy slums of New York. They are eventually reunited and marry. But life in New York is hard and ... See full summary »
J. Frank Burke
Prudence Cole is an unsophisticated Quaker girl being raised by her two aunts. Prudence is flirted with by snobbish Henry Garrison, who actually disdains the girl for her lack of ... See full summary »
Robert G. Vignola
Two peasant children, Mytyl and Tyltyl, are led by Berylune, a fairy, to search for the Blue Bird of Happiness. Berylune gives Tyltyl a cap with a diamond setting, and when Tyltyl turns the... See full summary »
Edwin E. Reed
An early social commentary on the New York sex trade, this film attempts to sensationalize prostitution, especially forced prostitution. Featuring a number of characters and sub-plots, the film is presented as if it were a documentary. Written by
A huge controversy in its day due to its salacious subject matter, Traffic in Souls is a creaky yet fascinating forefather of movie exploitation. One of the earliest feature-length Hollywood films ever made, director George Loane Tucker filmed his project away from the prying eyes of the producers with the knowledge that he would be shut down immediately in they caught a whiff of what he was actually up to. Tackling the unspeakable subject of white slavery, the film is of course incredibly tame by today's standards, but it's no surprise that it went on to become a box-office smash thanks to the inevitable media outcry.
The story follows a variety of characters who are introduced individually with title cards akin to reading a programme at the theatre. The main players include police officer Burke (Matt Moore), the archetypal humble hero engaged to the beautiful Mary Barton (Jane Gail); high society-type and head of the Citizen's League Willaim Trubus (William Welsh); and Mary's sister Lorna (Ethel Grandin), who is hustled by pimp Bill Bradshaw (William Cavanaugh) into joining his brothel. Trubus is at the head of the prostitute ring, and along with his go-between (Howard Crampton), a small gang of heavies and thugs, and a nifty, stolen invention that works like an early wire-tap, makes a fortune in kidnapping and selling women for sex.
Although the subject matter is controversial, the action depicted on screen is certainly not. The film spends a long time showing us the inner workings of the prostitute ring, from the bottom to the very top, which gives the film a clinical, procedural feel, although it keeps its characters at a distance. There are no scenes that even suggest what these women are exposed to, so we get to witness them crying in an empty room a lot. But this is captivating stuff at times, not only tapping into its audience's desire to see something forbidden, but helping define cinematic narrative as a whole. Some flashy techniques, such as stop-motion and camera glides, prove that people were developing these styles long before D.W. Griffith. It's certainly primitive, but demonstrates a remarkable maturity for its age, with even the actors dumping the wide-eyed overacting so popular in silent cinema for something all the more subtle.
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