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Bits of Life (1921)

Episode 1: The Bad Samaritan. Tom Levitt, half-breed son of a Chinese and a white woman, is the victim of brutality during his boyhood and becomes a criminal. A friend, released from jail, ... See full summary »


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Complete credited cast:
Tom Levitt, a boy
Tom Levitt
Dentist's Patient
Teddy Sampson
Tammany Young
Harriet Hammond
Scott Welsh


Episode 1: The Bad Samaritan. Tom Levitt, half-breed son of a Chinese and a white woman, is the victim of brutality during his boyhood and becomes a criminal. A friend, released from jail, tells Tom he is going straight and asks for money to leave town; Tom takes a stolen wallet from another boy. After hearing a preacher tell the story of the Good Samaritan, he goes to aid a man who has been assaulted; facing a ten-year sentence for robbery, he reflects on the irony of his downfall. Episode 2: The Man Who Heard Everything. Ed Johnson, who barely makes a living from barbering, is deaf, but he is happy in the belief that the world is good and that he is loved by his wife. Coming into possession of an instrument that restores his hearing, he learns that the persons he has idolized are not to be trusted and that his wife is unfaithful; in despair, he destroys the instrument. Episode 3: Hop. As a boy in China, Chin Gow learns that girl infants are undesirable. When a man, he becomes ... Written by Pamela Short

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Release Date:

26 September 1921 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Great Talent In A Vanished Movie
28 July 2015 | by See all my reviews

"Bits of Life" is a lost movie, an anthology film was based in part on a Thomas McMorrow short story. McMorrow was a writer who wrote regularly for the Saturday Evening Post in the teens and twenties. According to IMDb, this movie is his only credit. Some 65 years after the release of this movie, McMorrow's son, working at the New York Daily News, phoned up a co-worker of mine at the New York State division I worked at then, asking about a garment firm we were checking into, for something, probably to do with distributing industrial homework. Tom McMorrow came up empty, the co-worker had instructions not to talk to the press.

The movie's cast includes Lon Chaney playing a Chinaman and Dorothy Mackaill in her first full length movie made in Hollywood. The cast also includes Anna May Wong, who could play an Asian without using much make-up, unlike Chaney. Mackaill would later star in 1931's "Safe In Hell," a true pre-Code movie where Mackaill plays a call girl on the run. Call girls are in the news again in New York (refer to New York Governor Spitzer's affairs in 2008).

Producer Marshal Neilan seems to have worked fast. The short story "The Man Who Heard Everything" was in The Smart Set magazine in April 1921 and this movie was out in September of that same year. Like Mackaill, Neilan's Hollywood career was on life support in the mid-30s before he directed one last movie in Britain in 1937. Mackaill last starring role was in 1937's "Bulldog Drummond at Bay," made in Britain.

Both pretty much vanished from sight thereafter, their movie careers over. Mackaill did have a stage career but around 1955, after her mother passed away, she left New York City to live in Honolulu, where she had her last credit, in an "Hawaii Five-0" episode. I sometimes wonder how old time Hollywood talent like Mackaill and Neilan supported themselves when their movie careers were over, their pay may have been good when they were working, much better than most in the pinch penny 1920s and Depression 1930s but, like now again for most workers, they had no pensions. Note: Neilan was very well paid but he lost most of his money on a bad investment in Edendale real estate.

Fame for most vanishes fast with the passage of time. If someone finds a copy of "Bits of Life" in their attic or stored in mislabeled film reels in some European archive, that should temporarily revive interest in these two mostly forgotten talents, who ended their careers playing bit parts. (Edited from a 2008 posting in the now pretty much defunct group alt.movies.silent)

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