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Stella Maris is a beautiful, crippled girl, who is cared for by a rich family. They shield her from the harsh realities of the world, so that she has no idea of the cruel things that some people do. Unity Blake is a poor orphan all too familiar with the harsh realities of the real world. These two young women both fall in love with John, love which is complicated by the fact that he is still married to (though separated from) a bad wife. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
When John Riska returns to his house one night, Unity offers him a 'Sally Lun' (sic). A 'Sally Lunn' is a type of bread, from Bath in the English West Country. The recipe is said to have come to the area courtesy of a French immigrant in the 17th century. It can be served sliced horizontally and toasted, with sweet or savoury toppings such as plain or flavoured butters, jam and clotted cream. See more »
[first title card]
Stella Maris, paralyzed from childhood, has been tenderly shielded from all the sordidness and misery of life. So she dwells serenly within a dream-world created by those who love her, unaware of sorrow, poverty, or death.
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Mary Pickford would likely have won that year. If you didn't know that Stella Maris and Unity Blake were played by the same actress, you probably would not guess that they were. Stella Maris has been paralyzed her entire life. Fortunately, her family is wealthy so they can give her the best of care. However, she is still bedridden. Her relatives feel so sorry for her that they keep all bad news from her, and with her only seeing the beauty of nature visible from the spectacular view of her bedroom window, and with her only encountering the kind souls that enter the world that is her room, she has grown to young womanhood knowing nothing of the ugliness of life.
In contrast, Unity Blake is an orphan at an orphanage and is a very plain girl on top of everything. Louisa Risca, a drunken woman with a drug habit to boot, adopts Unity as a servant girl who won't/can't complain about her habits. It's quite touching when Unity first thinks she's getting a mother and instead realizes that instead she is just a servant, and an indentured one at that. The common thread between Unity's and Stella's very different worlds is John Risca (Conway Tearle), husband of Louisa and frequent visitor of Stella Maris. At the insistence of Stella's aunt and uncle, John has never told Stella that his wife is an addict or that he is even married for that matter.
One day, in a drunken rage, Louise beats Unity to the brink of death over a mistake the girl has made in doing the marketing. Not even John's connections can save Louise from doing three years in prison for this deed. Meanwhile, a prominent European surgeon restores Stella's ability to walk and she is now able to explore the world - the whole world - with all of its ugliness as well as its beauty. John Risca makes Unity his ward to compensate in his own way for what his wife has done. Thus Unity, for the first time, gets to see some of the beauty in life. Thus the worlds of these two girls collide with very interesting and powerful results - I'll let you watch and see what happens.
This is very sophisticated story-telling and acting for a 1918 film. If you are disappointed at all, please remember this film was made just three or so years out from a time when comedy mainly consisted of pants kicking fests and drama of maidens being tied to railroad tracks. Of course the greatness of this film lies not only in Mary Pickford's convincing portrayal of two very different people, but in Frances Marion's adapted screenplay, Ms. Marion being one of the great writers for the screen in the silent and early sound eras.
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