Pickpockets 'Stoop' Connors and Mary Stevens often work together, but they are now having a falling out over a job that Connors had planned for the evening. Meanwhile, socialite Adele Hoyt breaks off her engagement with Kent Mortimer, who has lost the fortune that interested her in him. Then, as Adele is going out for the evening, her pearl necklace falls to the ground. Mary, standing nearby, quickly grabs it and runs off. As she is being pursued by police and others, Mary slips inside Kent's home to hide. As she then talks to Kent and learns of the patient way that he is dealing with his misfortunes, a change comes over Mary. She is now determined to make an honest living, and she and Kent become close. But 'Stoop' refuses to let her leave her old way of life, and he also insists on having the stolen pearls for himself. Written by
A solid melodrama in itself, "The Wicked Darling" is most noteworthy now for the supporting performance of Lon Chaney, in the kind of villainous role that he performed as well as any actor of his time (or just about any other time, for that matter). The movie has recently been restored from one badly damaged print and a few scraps of information, and the restorers have done an impressive job indeed piecing together almost all of the original feature.
Priscilla Dean has the lead role, as a good-natured pickpocket caught up in a bad crowd, among them being Chaney's vicious character. A chain of events leads Mary (Dean's character) to develop a friendship with an upper class gentleman (played by Wellington Playter) who has recently lost both his fortune and his fiancée. The two of them go on to face a series of crises, tests, and menaces, many of them instigated by Chaney's character.
It's a story like many others of its era, but Tod Browning's direction keeps it from being ordinary, adding some good touches and details, and getting good performances from most of the cast. Chaney, though, is the one that stands out. He has no disguises or detailed make-up this time, but he makes full use of every opportunity to portray a cold-hearted crook who forms a formidable obstacle to the happiness of the heroine and the man she loves. As a result, it's quite a bit more interesting and memorable than most movies of its kind.
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