Best Drama Movies of 1915
The Birth of a Nation
Two families, abolitionist Northerners the Stonemans and Southern landowners the Camerons, intertwine. When Confederate colonel Ben Cameron is captured in battle, nurse Elsie Stoneman petitions for his pardon. In Reconstruction-era South Carolina, Cameron founds the Ku Klux Klan, battling Elsie's congressman father and his African-American protégé, Silas Lynch.
At 10 years old, Owen becomes a ragged orphan when his mother dies. Abusive next-door neighbors the Conways take him in, and by 17, Owen has learned that might is right. At 25, he's a career gangster: loitering, gambling and drinking in dens of iniquity. Marie Deering arrives in Owen's area, eager to empower the impoverished, gang-affiliated youth through education. Owen slowly but surely leaves his old life behind, choosing the narrow path- all the while falling in love with Marie. Skinny, who's taken over Owen's role in the gang, reappears to him, spelling trouble.
A venal, spoiled stockbroker's wife impulsively embezzles $10,000 from the charity she chairs and desperately turns to a Burmese ivory trader to replace the stolen money.
Seamen Enoch Arden returns home after a long absence marooned on a desert island. At home he finds his wife married to another, and though he loves her, he cannot bear to disrupt her current happiness.
The story of St. Gabriel, who was killed by an ignorant mob for making a nude statue representing Purity, who is also represented by a ghostly naked girl that flits through the film.
Cecil B. DeMille’s thought-to-be-lost 1915 silent film The Captive, is a found treasure. Set during the Balkan Wars, The Captive tells the story of Sonia (Blanche Sweet, The Woman in White), a young woman living in Montenegro and left to care for her younger brother Milos (Gerald Ward, The Warrens of Virginia) and the family farm when older brother Marko (Page Peters, Davy Crockett) goes off to battle. Unable to handle the day-to-day tasks following her brother’s tragic death, help comes in the form of Mahmud Hassan (House Peters, Prisoners of the Storm) a captured Turk nobleman now a prisoner of war. Tasked with helping Sonia, their initial frosty relationship soon melts into love. As the war rages on Sonia, Mahmud and Milos will face near-insurmountable obstacles in their quest for a better life amidst the hell of war.
Madame de Thèbes
The story is wacky – a gypsy is cursed by her father, so that she has to deny her illegitimate son in order for him to have a successful life. She gives him to a well-to-do lady who has lost her own child. Later, he has grown up to be a politician who wants to become the foreign minister. He doesn’t know that his real mother is the famous Madame de Thebes, the fortuneteller who all politicians make sure to visit! This information falls into the hands of a rival, who tries to use it to ruin his career. Meanwhile, the rival’s attractive daughter is attacked by a ruffian and needs to be rescued… There are a lot of striking images in this film. You can see the beauty of them even if the state of the print is far from perfect. The Norwegian actress Ragna Wettergreen gives a haunting performance as Madame de Thebes, with wisdom and regret – and quite a few melodramatic gestures. Understatement was not the norm in those days.
Fanchon, the Cricket
A young wild girl Fanchon ( Mary Pickford ) lives in a forest with her eccentric grandmother who is suspected by the villagers of being a witch. The unkempt Fanchon suffers from her grandmother's sorceress reputation. One day the girl rescues a boy from drowning and they fall in love, but Fanchon won't agree to marry him unless his father asks her. A year later the boy has fallen very ill and it is only the presence of the enchanting Fanchon that helps to restore his health.
Hot-blooded gypsy Carmen attempts to seduce Don Jose, a lawman sent to thwart a gang of illegal smugglers in Spain. Carmen's plan backfires when Don Jose's passion for the gypsy girl escalates into a jealous rage as she spurns him for her bullfighter beau, Escamillo, with tragic results.
This 1915 Maurice Tourneur film is a version of the famous duMaurier novel. It was later done in a more famous 1931 film named Svengali with John Barrymore. The later film obviously changed the title due to the huge presence of its' star.