The Unwritten Law ()

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The picture opens with a scene in the drawing room of the home to which John Wilson, the State's District Attorney, has just brought his bride, Kate. This fades out into one year later. The young wife has become the mother of a baby girl.... See more »


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Kate Wilson
William Pike ...
John Wilson
Larry McCarthy
Baby Felice Rix ...
Sue Wilson
Frank Hollins ...
Fred Morley
Clarence Arper ...
Dr. Mahler
Irene Outtrim ...
Nina Herbert ...

Directed by

George E. Middleton

Written by

Leslie T. Peacocke ... (scenario)
Edwin Milton Royle ... (play)

Film Editing by

Ruby Gasberg

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Plot Summary

The picture opens with a scene in the drawing room of the home to which John Wilson, the State's District Attorney, has just brought his bride, Kate. This fades out into one year later. The young wife has become the mother of a baby girl. John Wilson is now a candidate for governor. Larry McCarthy, saloon proprietor and political boss of the southern half of the State, comes to Wilson's home to plead his support, and while there meets Kate. That same evening the Wilsons have dinner at the Frolic Café, where Estelle, a popular cabaret singer and McCarthy's sweetheart is the star performer. Because Wilson and his wife, both of whom do not drink, refuse to taste the wine offered by McCarthy, he decides to harm Wilson in his race for governor. With no suspicion of McCarthy's perfidy, Wilson is confident of victory, and in anticipation of it gives a ball on the night of election. During the affair, he receives news of his defeat. He wanders into the library and there finds a decanter of whiskey. Surrendering to a sudden impulse, he begins to drink and is thoroughly intoxicated when Kate discovers him later. Wilson becomes a confirmed drunkard. Estelle has run away with another man, and McCarthy, now determined to possess himself of Kate, assists Wilson on his downward way. Kate, finding it necessary to secure an income for the support of herself. John and Baby Sue through her own endeavors, saves a few dollars from the wreck of their fortune and goes into the millinery business. John sets out to mail a letter addressed to the insurance company. Kate has enclosed in it fifty dollars in bills to pay for a policy on her store. John's intentions are good enough, but McCarthy pulls him inside a saloon. The temptation is too great and he spends the money for liquor. At home that night while in a drunken stupor he throws a burning match on the floor. It sets fire to the curtain and soon the building is in flames. McCarthy arrives in the nick of time and rescues the family. Baby Sue has been seriously burned. Reduced to the poorest circumstances, the Wilsons are now forced to live in cheap apartments in Larry McCarthy's tenement house. Kate earns a miserable existence for them through taking in washing. Finally McCarthy proposes that he come as a boarder, thus eliminating the necessity of Kate's paying rent. John is now growing jealous and suspicious of McCarthy's intentions. Although the rent is already in arrears and Kate believes John's suspicions of McCarthy entirely unwarranted, she nevertheless listens to his wishes and refuses Larry's proposition. John has found a ray of hope in a newspaper article in which a prominent physician declares that the drink habit may sometimes be cured by a sudden shock. He makes a new resolution to brace up, and on the strength of it Kate allows him to collect a back laundry bill. John again succumbs, however. Left thus without resources to pay the rent, Kate is forced to allow McCarthy to come as a boarder. Realizing his utter worthlessness, John determined to no longer burden Kate with his presence and leaves. The blow of John's leaving completely breaks Kate's health. The doctor declares that she will never be able to work again. McCarthy has come to her assistance with nurses, medical assistance and other comforts. Just as Kate is improving, the doctor declares that Sue, who is still failing, must be sent to a country sanitarium. McCarthy again comes to the assistance and furnishes the money with which to send the child away. Through his continued kindness, Larry gains Kate's promise that she will divorce John and marry him. After that their intimacy gradually increases, until gossip starts and Kate is snubbed by her former friends. This causes her great anxiety on Sue's account and her great wish becomes urgent that she may secure her divorce in time to marry before the child returns from the sanitarium. Meanwhile Larry has begun to tire of her and resumes his associations with Estelle, who has some time before returned from Chicago. The decree of divorce is issued the day before Sue is to arrive home, and Kate goes ahead planning an immediate marriage. Larry is thoroughly infatuated with Estelle again and plans to run away with her. To still further deceive Kate and allay any suspicions that might arise, Larry secures a marriage license. He had not the opportunity to previously advise Estelle of this, and when she overhears a reporter's remarks concerning it she jumps at the conclusion that he intends to double cross her and marry Kate. She hurries to Kate's apartments and a scene ensues. Larry, who is in his room smuggling his grip out through the window, overhears the heated words, and going into the living room, finds Kate confronted by Estelle. He sees that there is no longer a chance of deception and so tells Estelle to go to the depot, where he will meet her. Larry starts back into his room, but Kate throws herself in front of him, declaring that he must marry her for Sue's sake. He knocks her onto the couch with a blow on the jaw and continues into the room. Kate rises in a daze and follows him. At just this juncture John, now an unkempt bum, enters the room. He registers that he hears something in Larry's room. Shortly after Kate comes out, finds a cop on the street and, leading him into the apartments, motions him into Larry's room. He finds Larry stretched on the floor murdered and John with a pistol in his hand. John is placed under arrest and brought to trial, but refuses to talk. Fred Moreley, his former assistant in the District Attorney's office, is John's attorney. He believes John innocent. Dr. Mahler has endeavored ineffectually to restore Kate's memory through hypnotism and continues in his efforts during the trial. He is trying for a recurrence of something that happened during the tragedy. The court is, however, unable to wait for her testimony and the jury files out to ballot for a verdict. The vote is "guilty." They return to the court room and the foreman is on the point of delivering the verdict. Dr. Mahler remembers the bruise that Larry's blow had left on Kate's face. He strikes her on the jaw and through the application of his hypnotic influence succeeds in restoring her memory. Kate rushes into the courtroom just before the verdict is delivered. She takes the stand and tells her story. When she followed Larry into the room on the night of the murder, her hand fell gropingly onto a revolver which he, in his hurry for departure, had left on his desk. She picked it up in a daze and pulled the trigger. It was she who killed McCarthy; John is released, and in the belief that conviction is impossible the District Attorney places no charge against Kate. There is a reunion of John, Kate and Sue. Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

Plot Keywords
Taglines An adaptation of Edwin Milton Royle's famous stage play of the same name. The story is wholesome and big and develops through breathless suspense to one of the most thrilling climaxes ever attained in motion picture art. (Print Ad-Mansfield Shield, ((Mansfield, Ohio)) 3 September 1916) See more »
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