Released 3/05/17 by Universal/Bluebird Photoplays; Director: Joseph De Grasse; Screenplay: Ida May Park, from The Wrong Side of Paradise by Harvey Gates; Cinematography: King Gray; 5 reels
CAST: Dorothy Phillips (Lola), Lilyan Rosine (Olga), Joseph Girard (Oliver Curwell), William Stowell (Roger Curwell), Alfred Allen (Hell Morgan), Lon Chaney (Sleter Noble)
SYNOPSIS: Oliver Curwell disowned his son Roger because he preferred studying art over tending to the family business. Olga showed interest in Roger, believing he would inherit his father's millions, but after his disinheritance, she abandoned him. Roger ends up a derelict on the streets of San Francisco, and one evening he wanders into "Sailor's Rest," a dance hall run by Hell Morgan. He gets into a fight with Morgan, and is saved by Morgan's daughter, Lola. Lola befriends him and convinces her father to employ him as a piano player in the dance hall. Lola and Roger fall in love, much to the irritation of Sleter Noble, a tough politician who covets her for himself. Olga discovers Roger in the bar and, having learned that his father died leaving his money to Roger, encourages his affections. Lola sees the two together, denounces Roger, and decides to give in to Noble's proposals. When he forces himself upon Lola she fights him; Morgan enters and is shot, but Noble is himself shot and killed. Lola helps her father down the fire escape just as the great 1906 earthquake levels the dance hall. Lola helps her father to a safe area where refugees are gathering. There, Roger finds them just as Morgan dies.
"We could not recommend it...for exhibition before refined audiences or before children; for while it may be a perfect typification of that hole of vice, the realism of its staging makes it the more unwholesome. Those looking for maudlin types will be attracted to the picture, for it abounds in them." ---Moving Picture World
"It will be found too rough for fastidious patrons, unless they are in the mood for a slumming expedition. However, the picture is really less suggestive than many polite society dramas. Its very frankness and force keep it from being salacious...It is well acted and well produced." --- Motography
"...the scenes depicting life in Frisco just prior to the earthquake rank with the best of that sort of motion picture work. The 'dive' stuff is so vivid that its realism is positively startling." --- Variety
NOTES: HELL MORGAN'S GIRL was originally intended to be released under the "States Rights" basis. This means that a film is sold outright to independent distributors who then sell it to theaters within their state or territory. After Carl Laemmle saw the finished film, he realized that he had a hit on his hands, and decided to pull it from the States Rights distributors and release it directly through his Bluebird Photoplay company, thereby reaping the largest share of the profits. The film was a tremendous success, with the reviews describing the "unwholesome" nature of the film serving to pack the theaters. It was one of the biggest hits Universal had during the teens. In a Universal annual report from July 22, 1917, earnings were reported to be $30,286 just a few months after its release. The working title of the film was THE WRONG SIDE OF PARADISE, and early press releases announced the film under that title.
© 1996,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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