A Mother's Atonement (1915): Lon Chaney, in a bushy beard, is getting ready to sell his daughter, Cleo Marsden, to Ben Rothwell; her mother ran off with a city man some years ago and the girl is getting older and it tells on a man. She doesn't care for this, so she sneaks out of the shack while the two old men are plastered on jug whisky and sneaks over to the mainland, where rich people lie around in hammocks. Arthur Shirley is getting serious about her, but his mama thinks her unsuitable, so she ..... associates with other men. The story gets told in clubs, and one of them recalls the mother, also played by Cleo Marsden, and how he and her....
Only first two reels of this Rex movie survive; one can assume that is because Mr. Chaney is not in the last. Despite its incompleteness, the estimable Jon Mirsalis scored and preserved the surviving parts, and for that he is to be thanked. Given the small survival rate of early Chaney, this is a good thing, but even more, is the power of these images. Looking at them, stripped of the titles, they look fairly typical for the previous era, items out of D.W. Griffith or the Girl Spy; yet even with the coy language, what was only physical dangerous, fear of death, becomes sexuality.
Perhaps this has always been lurking beneath the surface, except for a few, brief moments, like the Pre-Code Era (1930-1933) in Hollywood. Perhaps it explains why modern Hollywood movies are so backwards when it comes to sex but forwards when it comes to death if, to the film-makers, they are the same thing.
Film lovers are sick people.
-- Francois Truffaut