6.0/10
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13 user 9 critic

Traffic in Souls (1913)

TV-PG | | Crime, Drama | 24 November 1913 (USA)
A woman, with the aid of her police officer sweetheart, endeavors to uncover the prostitution ring that has kidnapped her sister, and the philanthropist who secretly runs it.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jane Gail ...
Ethel Grandin ...
William H. Turner ...
Matt Moore ...
William Welsh ...
William Trubus (as Wm. Welsh)
Millie Liston ...
Mrs. William Trubus (as Mrs. Hudson Lyston)
Irene Wallace ...
Alice Trubus - Daughter
William Cavanaugh ...
Bill Bradshaw (as Wm. Cavanaugh)
Arthur Hunter ...
Howard Crampton ...
W.H. Bainbridge ...
'Respectable' Smith (as Wm. Burbridge)
Luray Huntley ...
A Country Girl (as Laura Huntley)
William Powers ...
The Emigrant Girls' Brother (as Wm. Powers)
Jack Poulton ...
Edward Boring ...
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Storyline

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 Fryingham

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A Powerful Photo-Drama of Today See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

TV-PG
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

24 November 1913 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Seelenhändler  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$5,700 (estimated)

Gross:

$430,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Describing this as the most important film in Universal Picture's history (and Carl Laemmle's) may not be an overstatement. Made for a mere $5,700.00 and tackling the lurid subject of white slavery, this (Universal's first feature length release) earned a whopping $450,000.00 and it put the company squarely on the map. See more »

Quotes

William Trubus: Five hundred was too much to pay for girl number 364.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening Title Card lists the name of the movie as: Traffic In Souls or While New York Sleeps". Further, it describes the film as "A Photodrama of Today". See more »

Connections

Featured in Ellis Island, une histoire du rêve américain (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Definitive Early Feature Film
1 May 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

TRAFFIC IN SOULS (1913) is one of the first feature films to really define what feature films would become aesthetically. It depicts the story of several women who are lured into a house of ill repute, as well as the unmasking of a powerful figure who pulls the strings who is not all that he seems…

SCRIPT: The script of TRAFFIC IN SOULS juggles multiple narrative threads at a time when most movies were short features that only told one story. It handles the separate yet related stories quite successfully. One flaw I did notice is that the brothel doesn't have any clients – but there may have been some reason for doing so, so as not to offend the sensibilities of 1913 audiences. In any case, the story is fairly realistic and must have been shocking for its day. There are nice little details, too – like the police officer and the girl asking the window cleaner to look away while they kiss briefly, the shopgirl who gets fired and sticks her tongue out at her boss, among other things. A bit melodramatic at times, and with a little padding, but not too much. The story is told with brisk efficiency and the film moves along at a nice pace. It is actually quite suspenseful as well. There's an intriguing technological element as well, with a kind of telegraph pen that writes remotely and a phonograph that records conversations. SCORE: 8/10.

ACTING: The acting here is exceptionally naturalistic, at a time when many "feature" films were little more than stage plays with overly emphatic acting. Particular standouts are Jane Gail as Mary Barton, William Welsh as the "philanthropist" Trubus, as Ethel Grandin as Lorna Barton. There's very little hamming it up in this film, and the realistic, restrained performances help to give a documentary feel to the proceedings. SCORE: 9/10

CINEMATOGRAPHY/PRODUCTION: TRAFFIC IN SOULS shows a quite advanced sense of editing for its day, although some of it is a bit choppy (which was confirmed by a contemporary review). There is not a lot of camera movement in the movie, but the briskly paced editing keeps the movie from being too static (again, unlike other features of the time). We are treated to some unusual camera angles and tracking shots at various points of the film. There aren't really any tight close-ups, and this keeps the movie feeling a bit remote over the course of its run time. By far the most remarkable feature of TRAFFIC IN SOULS is its liberal use of outdoor location shooting, which gives it a remarkable realism that is still striking today. Although other features a few years later (including one I don't want to name) would use more advanced features like iris shots and tinting, TRAFFIC IN SOULS is still pretty advanced for its time. SCORE: 9/10

SUMMARY: TRAFFIC IN SOULS deserves more recognition as being a movie that helped set the standard for feature films, even before BIRTH OF A NATION. Its story is quite complex, but fast paced and engrossing. The acting is refreshingly and remarkably naturalistic. Its cinematography and editing are well executed, helping to pave the way for feature films to break away from the stage and come into their own as an art form in their own right. SCORE: 9/10


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