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J. Frank Burke
A doctor's wife is the head of a bureau that publishes and hands out literature on birth control. However, the police stop it and forbid her to speak in meetings about the secret that was ... See full summary »
While prosecuting a physician for the death of a client after an abortion, the district attorney discovers that his wife helped her society friends and the daughter of her maid obtain and pay for abortions from the physician (and was perhaps herself also a client.) Written by
Quite apart from being one of the few chances to see a Tyrone Power film (father, not son); this Lois Weber film is a powerful anti-abortion piece - albeit one which is clogged with concerns around birth control and what looks to be misguided focus on the process of eugenics (i.e. determining strong genes and background before having children).
DA Richard Walton has always wanted children and cannot understand why his wife (played by the real-life Mrs Power, Helen Riaume) fails to conceive. Of course as we quickly find out, she has sent many unwanted children back to the portal of heaven where they wait to be called, by having numerous abortions and arranging for her friends to do the same, including the lazy social butterfly Mrs Carlo (Marie Walcamp).
There are three plot strands here - one concerning a progressive doctor (C Norman Hammond) who wishes to teach the poor about birth control and who is being prosecuted for obscenity; one concerning a virginal housemaid's daughter (Rena Rogers) who is seduced by Mr Walton's brother-in-law (William J Hope), with tragic consequences; and one about the trips to the abortion clinic of Dr Malfit (Juan de la Cruz) which are commonplace to Mrs Walton and her set.
Intercut with these stories are sights of the children waiting to be called into the womb - the unwanted as well as the wanted. This is perhaps the most artificial part of the film as the gates of heaven open and close to allow children to be called to earth or to return again to the portal of the unwanted. It works but looks rather old fashioned these days.
The ending is very moving, however, as Mr and Mrs Walton, knowing she is now unable to have children, are surrounded by the ghosts of their unborn as they descend into old age.
A preachy film but a powerful one. Amazing to think that items tackled here, over 90 years ago, could not be touched on again until the second half of the twentieth century.
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