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.
Mary Pickford plays "Rags," a pretty but wild girl who defends her alcoholic father a disgraced bank cashier, no matter how he mistreats her. Enter a handsome engineer whose family had once fired Rag's father for theft. Rags falls in love but realizes that marriage is a hopeless proposition considering her lowly place in society. But when she learns that her father plans to rob the newcomer, Rags betrays him to the sheriff, and he is shot in the ensuing battle.
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.
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.
After a brief view of Edgar Allan Poe's family background, his grandfather, David Poe, Sr., an Irish immigrant to America, and his father, David Poe, Jr., the poet's life is depicted from the death of his mother and his subsequent adoption by John Allan, to his own tortured death in 1849. Expelled from the University of Virginia for incurring too many debts, Poe nonetheless courts and marries Virginia Clemm but is disowned by his foster father. While residing in Fordham, New York, Poe tries to earn a living as a writer but meets with little financial success. Overwhelmed by their impoverished state, Virginia dies and Poe sinks into a profound depression. Always a victim of alcohol and subject to hallucinations, Poe first imagines that his neighbor, Helen Whitman, is Virginia, then plunges himself into an elaborate delusion in which his wife's spirit, various other spectres and a raven finally drive him to his own death.
The Golden Chance
Despite her well-bred upbringing, Mary had disobeyed her family’s wishes and married Steve Denby, a petty thief whose penchant for booze has left them destitute. Mary answers an ad to be a society woman’s seamstress and is hired by Mrs. Hillary. Mr. Hillary is trying to close a deal with Roger Manning and entices him by inviting him, as a dinner guest, to meet the “prettiest girl in the world.” Upon learning that the “prettiest girl” is indisposed, Mrs. Hillary, realizing that Mary had good upbringing, enlists Mary as a substitute. Naturally Mary and Manning fall in love, and, since the deal still isn’t signed, the Hillary’s hire Mary’s services for the weekend.
Fanchon, the Cricket
A young wild girl, Fanchon, 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.
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 Darkening Trail
Yukon Ed has asked saloon owner Ruby McGraw to marry him several times, and has been turned down each time. However, she falls for Jack Sturgess, a no-account who has seduced and abandoned a poor young girl and is escaping from his father's anger. She takes up with Jack to Ed's dismay, and soon the thing that Ed feared would happen does happen.
An immigrant leaves his sweetheart in Italy to find a better life across the sea in the grimy slums of New York.
Children of Eve
An illegitimate child of the slums comes to faith. Later, she chooses to labor in a canning factory in order to investigate its poor conditions, not realizing she has a significant connection to the cold-hearted factory owner.
Set during the Balkan Wars, The Captive tells the story of Sonia, a young woman living in Montenegro and left to care for her younger brother Milos and the family farm when older brother Marko 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.
Alias Jimmy Valentine
After robbing a bank, a criminal is wrongfully pardoned from prison.
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.
A hypnotic Svengali controls the singing voice of a young starlet, but he cannot control her heart. 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.
Set during the American Civil War, Keenan stars as a Virginia colonel and Charles Ray as his weak-willed son. The son is forced, at gunpoint, by his father to enlist in the Confederate army. He is terrified by the war and deserts during a battle. The film focuses on the son's struggle to overcome his cowardice.
A Spanish soldier falls under the spell of a fiery gypsy girl named Carmen. His obsession with her leads to his ruin.
A Fool There Was
John Schuyler, a happily married lawyer, is appointed diplomat and sent to England; But, due to an unfortunate accident, his wife and child can not come along with him. On the ship to England, Schuyler meets the notorious Vampire-- A relentless gold-digger who causes the moral degradation of those she seduces, first fascinating and then draining the very life from her victims.
Mysteries of London
A framed clerk is freed in time to save his daughter from being murdered for her inheritance.
The Pitch o' Chance
One of the earliest surviving short films by Franke Borzage. A simple western about a man who enjoys boozing, gambling and women.
The story of a Japanese woman and the tragedy that ensues when she loves an American naval officer.
Martyrs of the Alamo
The story of the defense of the mission-turned-fortress by 185 Texans against an overwhelming Mexican army in 1836.
The Doll-House Mystery
When a stack of valuable bonds go missing from the Grant household, suspicion falls on little Carmen Grant's playmate Georgie, whose father is a poor ex-convict trying to go straight.
Captain Alving, a notorious rake and financially irresponsible, seeks wealthy heiress Helen's hand in marriage. The family doctor protests to the marriage, on the grounds of Alving's hereditary illness, but both parties disregard all warnings; Urged on by her ambitious parents, Helen marries Alving. Later Helen discovers a liaison between her husband and a young, married woman. Soon the sins of the father are visited upon all members of the Alving clan. Based on Henrik Ibsen's play.
The Black Box
Science fiction serial, presumed lost.
Audrey Munson (a real-life 'perfect' model for numerous Beaux-Arts sculptors) first appeared artistically nude as a sculptor's model, recreating classic artistic (nude) paintings in George Foster Platt's controversial film from the Mutual Film Corporation. In fact, the film told the story of her own life. This film has generally been regarded as the first non-pornographic American film to feature nudity. This was the first known film in which a leading actress stripped down to be naked, making her the first nude film star. (filmsite.org)
Hearts in Exile
In Czarist Russia, attractive Anna Ivanovna has consecrated her life to work among Russia's persecuted poor. She dispenses food, medicine, and funds to the needy, from a busy charity headquarters. Two men, separate in station, are in love with Ivanovna: Poor doctor Paul helps as much as he can, and wealthy merchant Serge donates money. The relentless and lascivious Chief of Police, also attracted by Ivanova's beauty and virtue, determines to possess her, and sentences all three to fifteen years in Siberia and East Russia on false charges.
A rough criminal gets a second chance at life thanks to a kindly (and wealthy) lady saloon patron. But he hasn't gone straight yet, as he and a partner attempt to rob the home of a rich homeowner-- whose wife is asleep in the next room.
Based -- loosely -- on Leo Tolstoy, this film starred feted stage star Nance O'Neil but is rather better remembered as Theda Bara's follow-up to the sensational A Fool There Was (1914).
John Keefe, a gambler, shoots and kills Robert Barrington in an argument over a card game. Keefe steals Barrington's papers and forges a bill of sale to himself for Barrington's stable of race horses back east. The stable includes the prize filly, Wildfire. Meanwhile, Barrington's daughters, Henrietta and Myrtle, are becoming worried about their father's long absence in the West. John Garrison, the sheriff of the town in which Barrington was killed, goes East to investigate. He suspects Keefe (now called John Duffy) and begins to build a case, causing Henrietta to become suspicious. Keefe, realizing that the game is almost up, tries to get Wildfire's jockey to throw the big race, but Henrietta saves the day and Wildfire wins.
In the Tennessee Hills
In an impoverished Tennessee hill town, Jim cares for his dangerously ill mother in a run-down shack he rents from the ruthless landlord John Calhoun. When Calhoun comes for the rent, Jim goes out to borrow the money. While he is away, Calhoun forcibly evicts Mother from the shack and leaves her dying in the dusty road. Jim, on his return, takes up his gun and begins to track down John Calhoun. - Harpodeon
Masha, a young Russian emigrant traveling to the U.S., is saved from an officer's advances by civil engineer David Harding. Upon landing in America, J. J. Walton, a self-made political boss and contractor, pursues Masha and hires her as his maid. She leaves after the first night, but becomes his mistress after Walton promises her an education and marriage.
Opera singer Renee Dupree is in love with struggling composer Julian who falls very seriously ill. She goes to impresario Mueller for the money Julian needs but is saved from sacrificing her virtue when a jealous lover kills Mueller.
Crime drama about the rivalry over a new invention and a nice girl.
Fernande marries a man and schemes to get his wealth when his expected death occurs. But he dies before he can change his will. She next tries to kill the son who inherits, but he outfoxes her.
Karl Heinrich is the heir to the throne of the small European principality of Rutania, but he's a lonely child, not allowed to play with other children and knowing little about life outside the castle. When he reaches college age he is sent to attend the University of Heidelberg, and really starts to enjoy himself for the first time, even falling in love with Kathie, his only friend during childhood and the niece of an innkeeper. However, political turmoil in Rutania forces him to return. He finds that the only way out of declaring war on a neighboring country would be to marry the daughter of its king--but that would require giving up Kathie, the only woman he's ever loved.
In the Switch Tower
IN THE SWITCH TOWER stars Walter Edwards (who also directed) as Bill Wharton, a middle-aged alcoholic who was once a leading engineer with a railroad. Wharton is estranged from his son Joel (Frank Borzage), who now works as an executive with the railroad, but Frank does send him money through Bill's longtime friend, Louis Hall (Robert Hall).
The boss of iron worker Roanoke Brooks (Power), is having an affair with his wife (Kathlyn Williams). Eventually she commits suicide and her lover dies in an accident. Roanoke lavishes all his love and attention on his daughter (Edith Johnson). As a young woman she goes to the West where she meets the son of the man who broke up her father's marriage.
Who Pays? was a series of twelve three-reel dramas, released between March and July 1915. Henry King and Ruth Roland starred in each episode, playing different roles each time, with a variety of supporting players who varied from one episode to another. Each episode told a complete and individual story, but they were all inter-related by a uniform theme. Although there were no cliff-hanger endings, each episode did, in fact, end with a challenge to the audience: Who was responsible for the misfortune of the principal characters? The titles of the twelve episodes were: #1: The Price of Fame; #2: The Pursuit of Pleasure; #3: When Justice Sleeps; #4: The Love Liar; #5: Unto Herself Alone; #6: Houses of Glass; #7: Blue Blood and Yellow; #8: Today and Tomorrow; #9: For the Commonwealth; #10: Pomp of Earth; #11: The Fruit of Folly; #12: Toil and Tyranny.
An innocent man is accused of murdering his aunt.
The Eternal City
Leone, a Papal guard, is devastated when his wife drowns herself after mistakenly thinking that he had abandoned her. He turns over his son David to be brought up by nuns, then enters a monastery. David is brought to London and is raised to be a beggar and thief until he is rescued by Dr. Roselli, an Italian political refugee, who raises David with his daughter Donna Roma. Years later David gets heavily involved in Italian politics and incurs the enmity of the corrupt Italian Prime Minister, which leads him to discover the hidden secrets of his family's past--and present.
"Vanity Fair" is a historical drama, based on the classic English novel written by William Thackeray, featuring Shirley Mason. Shirley Mason was 15 y.o. and played the role of the young Becky Sharp. Directors obviously took notice of her performance, because in 1917 she appeared in 17 feature films, in many of them playing the star role.
A stenographer and her boss are embroiled in a salacious media frenzy,
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Thanhouser Company's two-reel adaptation of Oscar Wilde's eponymous novel. “The plot is unusual, and even though none of the familiar epigrams of the author find their way into the subtitles there is an artistic flavor to the production. Dorian's picture shows evidence in the passing years of his selfish, dissipated life, though his own countenance remains unchanged. Harris Gordon handles the leading role effectively, and Helen Fulton was pleasing as the ill-fated young actress who won Dorian's heart." - The Moving Picture World, July 31, 1915.
Their One Love
In the 1850s twin girls fall in love with the same young man, and must struggle with their feelings once he goes off to fight in the Civil War.
The lives of a stenographer and her boss are thrown into turmoil by reckless gossip.
Back in college, John Ballard saved Philip Hardin's life. Twenty years later, John is the district attorney and Philip is president of a railroad notorious for its accident record. When John brings a suit against the railroad, Philip threatens to reveal a ruinous secret about John unless he drops the case. Meanwhile, a railroad inspector discovers that the trestle over which an express train carrying Philip's daughter is about to pass is in eminent danger of collapse.
The Warrens of Virginia
As the Civil War begins Ned Burton leaves his Southern love Agatha Warren and joins the Union army. He is later protected and saved from death by Agatha in spite of her loyalty to the South.