A girl saves her sweetheart from the dealings of a deceitful gang that he has fallen in with.
Did You Know?
This apparently ordinary short (18 minute) melodrama is important in movie history for one very important distinction: it was the movie that inaugurated the star system in Hollywood (and elsewhere). Up to that time, actors' names were never displayed in the credits of movies (with the rare exception of big stage stars, like Sarah Bernhardt
, who ventured tentatively into the medium). This was deliberate: the star system already existed in the American theater, and film producers did not want the headache of having to pay high salaries for star actors as theatrical producers already did. Also, stage actors, for a number of complicated reasons, were wary of publicly revealing their work in films. However, one actress, Florence Lawrence
became popular with audiences as the anonymous "Biograph Girl." She left Biograph and went to work for an new studio, IMP (Independent Moving Pictures Company), run by a German immigrant named Carl Laemmle
. In 1910, IMP launched a publicity stunt by spreading the false rumor that Miss Lawrence had been killed in New York by a streetcar. They then created and distributed a poster with the header "We Nailed a Lie" (even though it was the studio's own lie), and announcing that Lawrence, whose photo was displayed, was alive and well and appearing in the IMP production "The Broken Oath" (amusingly misspelled "The Broken Bath"). Thus, Lawrence became history's first movie star: that is, the first performer, not already famous in another medium, whose name and likeness were used in the publicity materials of a motion picture to sell tickets. Lawrence did indeed become a star, but she later fell into poverty and obscurity and committed suicide. Carl Laemmle later co-founded and served as first president of Universal Studios. See more