Feature Drama | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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Mary Pickford as the eldest of a group of orphans kept in semi-slavery by an avaricious unscrupulous farmer. The children work on the farm, hide when visitors come and dream of escape. The farmer agrees to hide a baby girl kidnapped by a gang from a rich local magnate. A tale of child abuse that tugs the heart strings ! Much melodrama.
Intertitle, scene setter, 'southern swampland'. Small rundown homestead in gloomy dank area. Intertitle - Mr grimes lives here. Man with bowed shoulders and a limp walks up muddy road under a dark tree, pauses and takes letter from his jacket, limps on. Group of children at edge of pond flying a kite. The kite. Close up on children, eldest girl unfurls kite string. Man limps with difficulty over logs spanning a stream. He reaches a large fence, close up of him reading a letter revealing him to be haggard and shabby. A letter - the writer can't send more money for the care of Amy. Man looks in envelope, finds a few dollars which puts inside jacket with a sly look over his shoulder, opens a parcel and finds a doll. Has a note reading "Love to my sweet baby from her Mama". He examines the doll. His hand crushes the dolls head. He looks at what he's done. He turns walks a few steps and drops the doll in the swamp. He looks down. Doll slowly sinks out of sight. He throws the parcel paper into the swamp. Children around the girl playing with kite string. Kite in the air. Writing - asking to be rescued from the Grimes's as they are mean, signed Molly and 7 infants and 1 baby'. Close up of Molly unwinding the string, she looks at its end. All kids look up as she lets go. Kite flies away leaving empty sky. String hangs in front of group. Close up of Molly looking hopeful, eyes upturned. She turns and says something to the kids and they all kneel and pray. Intertitle - asking god to help their kite and them. Close up of Molly praying. Intertitle - god had other plans. Kite broken in tree. All kids still praying on knees. Grimes approaches gate in large fence, pulls rope. A bell ringing. Kids hear it, startled. Intertitle "The bell! The bell! Hide!". All children run off. Bell ringing. Chained up dog barking. Kids run into barn, small one falls, Molly picks it up by the collar, barn doors close. Inside barn kids rush up a ladder. A woman comes round the side of the house. Molly pushes crippled boy up the ladder with her head. Kids gather round at top of ladder. Woman gets to gate and throws an old shoe at the dog. Molly holds her finger to her lips to encourage kids to be quiet. Close up of small girl asking question. Intertitle "Molly why do we always have to hide when the bell rings?". Molly strokes her hair. Intertitle - because Grimes doesn't want it known they're there. Close up on Molly. Close up on small dirty boy talking. Intertitle - a month ago she said god would help them escape. Molly talks to the group. Intertitle - he'll help, he's busy watching falling sparrows. Molly talking. Small boy asks question. Intertitle "how come them sparrows got such a pull with him?". Molly with kids, looks astonished as boy walks off. Woman is closing gate having let Grimes in, he looks around and shouts. Intertitle "Hey - you Molly". Man shouting. Molly looks through gap in barn wall, turns away. Man shouting. Kids descend ladder and peer through cracks. Molly opens top half of barn door holding a baby. Grimes shouts. Intertitle "Git them brats back to work!". Grimes shouting. Molly nods and smiles ingratiatingly, slaps her neck and winces. Molly opens doors and kids rush out scattering chickens. Kids run into vegetable patch. Grimes shouts and gestures. Kids stop. Grimes shouts. Intertitle - the vegetables worth money don't rample them or you go in the swamp. Grimes shouting. Kids still, then Molly points them around the side. Grimes turns and walks off, followed by the woman. Molly puts baby down as children work in the vegetable plot. Baby lying on a sack is crying. Molly tells it to be quiet.
Intertitle - baby named Amy, and Grimes doesn't like babies. Molly shushing the baby. Grimes and woman slowly enter a house, dirty and smoky, broken down place, boy standing at a small table doing something. Grimes and woman come up to the table, dirty faced boy is spooning from a can onto bread. Grimes grabs the can and speaks, the boy replies and Grimes waves his hand for the boy to go, boy walks out, Grimes turns to the woman and speaks. Intertitle - her son does nothing but eat. Grimes takes off his hat. The son is outside eating bread and looking around for something. Molly is dancing for Amy. Boy picks up a plant and throws it. Molly gets hit on the head. Baby crying. Molly holds her head. Baby cheers up. Molly rubs her head and looks towards boy. He laughs, still with bread in hand. She picks up a plant and winds her arm up then throws it. Hits boy just as he's about to eat, his face gets smeared, he wipes his eyes. Molly runs off. Boy shouts. Intertitle "Pa-Ma-Pa". Son shouting. Grimes gets up and walks towards door. Molly comes up to the son and confronts him. He is upset. Molly looks ferocious and clenches her fists, she looks on ground. Grimes exits house behind his crying son. Molly picks up a piece of wood then stops horrified to see Grimes. Son raises an arm in defence as Grimes looks on astonished. Molly changes her threatening stance and pretends to spot a fly which she swats with the wood and her hand, looks to see if Grimes is watching and then hits top of a fence post and at another fly in the air with a glance over her shoulder. Molly skips away still pretending to be chasing flies. She crosses the yard still swiping the air. The boy is crying while Grimes shakes his fist and shouts, boy hold his bread to show what happened and Grimes bangs his arm so boys face is covered again, he throws down the bread in disgust and leans his head on his arm against the house. Intertitle - Molly a troublemaker, going to shove in the swamp. Grimes shouting at his wife who responds. Intertitle "some day you'll shove one too many in the swamp". Grimes and his wife arguing, he walks off. Children working in the vegetable patch, Grimes walks by in the distance. Molly repeatedly jumps on fork then turns over soil. Grimes sits at table, his wife stands next to him, he throws down newspaper then gives her a note. He looks up to see her reaction. She reads. Note, "plan to pull the job Thursday, will bring the kid straight to you, Bailey". She looks up calmly and speaks. Intertitle "thought you was goin' to steer clear of this". She looks down. Grimes raises a finger and points while speaking. Intertitle "It means money - a lot of money!". He is pointing at her. She nods but looks disapproving. Intertitle - money no help in jail. He waves his hand as if to dismiss her view and gets up from his chair. Kids are working in vegetable patch. One small boy tumbles into a basket, another helps him back up. Molly looks up from her digging. The boys begin to fight. Molly shouts. Boys fighting, the smaller gets pushed back into the basket. Molly shouts. Standing boy turns the basket over with smaller boy under it, turns away to hoe again and then sits on basket. Molly throws down her spade and runs over. She picks up seated boy by the collar, kicks the basket right way up, 2 boys start to fight again, Molly separates them. Close up of angry boy. Intertitle "He c-c-called me sp-sp-splutters again!". Molly gets spit in her eye and turns away to wipe it clear, then turns the boy away. Intertitle - tells them to kiss and make up. Molly looks severe and wags finger. Close up of boy saying he won't. Close up of other boy shouting. Molly stands erect. Intertitle "then you'll have to kiss me...". She points to both cheeks and bends down to receive the kisses, as the boys lean forward she pushes them together so they kiss, they break apart. Close ups of both boys wiping lips and spitting. Molly pushes them away to pick up their tools again.
A man on horse and cart is at the gate, he climbs to the ground. The dog comes out of its kennel. Man, smoking a pipe, reads a sign on the fence. Close up of sign "Hogs for Sale, Ring Bell". Man pulls on rope. Bell ringing. Kids stop work, Molly looks alarmed. Bell ringing. Dog barking and jumping up. Molly scampers over to pick up the baby and all kids head towards barn. Bell ringing. Kids run into barn, son by door kicks the cripple as he closes the door. Kids rush up the ladder, cripple rubbing his behind. Boy runs up to the son pointing back, son throws him to the ground. Molly helps cripple up the steps with her head again. The son is holding struggling boy. Intertitle "M-M-Molly". Molly looks surprised. Boy struggling with the son. Molly counts the kids, looks horrified, goes to the side. Son pushes crying boy away, it is Splutters. Molly pokes her head from upper barn door. Boy looks up. Intertitle "Am-Am-Ambrose w-w-won't lemme in!". Molly shouts down. Intertitle "Please let him in, Ambrose dear, your pa'll half murder us...". Ambrose waves Molly away and throws boy down again. Molly looks angry and shakes her fist. Intertitle "Let him in - you redheaded, pussy-fottin' cat-fish!". Molly shouting down. Ambrose looks away and Splutters tries to climb in a window, Ambrose pulls him back, then kicks him several times and chase him. Molly rushes across barn to another window, kids follow to look out. Splutters climbing onto the house roof, pushes Ambrose back. Molly and kids laugh. Ambrose picks up a rock to throw at other boy but stops and looks away. Grimes opens gate to the man with the cart. Splutters reached the roof now. The cart enters. Woman moves curtains and peers out of window. Splutters watches from the roof. Molly and kids watch. The man rides cart into the yard where Grimes standing. Grimes smiling, then looks upset. Horse pulls up a plant to eat. Grimes shouting rushes over. Man goes round to horses mouth as Grimes arrives and hands him remains of plant, Grimes grabs bits from the horse's mouth then stalks off. Ambrose is creeping around the house, picks up a stone to throw at Splutters on the roof but can't because he is standing in front of a window. Ambrose holds the rock and shouts at boy. Molly and kids laugh. Splutters sits cheerfully on a window sill. The stranger backs his horse away from plants but this causes a barrel to roll of the back of the cart. It rolls down a slope and into the swamp. The man comes to stand by Grimes who cheerfully points at barrel. Barrel half submerged in mud. The man looks at back of cart and then rushes forward. Stands at edge of swamp as barrel sinks, he grabs a rake and leans forward to try and get it. Grimes looks on. The stranger tumbles forward and then the rake sinks into mud and he is up to his knees, he looks back for help. Close up of legs up to knee level in mud. Grimes gestures and shouts. Grimes at swamp edge gives man a hand. Close up of legs sinking. Barrel disappears below mud. Legs stuck in the mud. Grimes helps the man onto firm ground. Man looks back at area where barrel was lost. He takes off his hat and wipes his brow, says something to Grimes. Intertitle - no bottom to bog holes. End of rake disappears into bubbling mud. Grimes walks away while stranger scans bog again. Ambrose is trying to throw a rock at Splutters on the roof. He is sitting on a window sill, taps the glass and taunts Ambrose. He shouts at him to move. Molly and the kids watch looking worried. Ambrose throws the rock to the ground in frustration and starts to climb up. Splutters scampers over to look for him. Ambrose's head appears at the roof edge. The boy climbs over his head and uses Ambrose's body to descend. Molly and the kids are laughing. The boy gets to the ground and runs off, Ambrose drops down and follows. The stranger is lifting a pig from a pen while Grimes opens the pen's gate. Ambrose chases Splutters. Molly and the kids look worried and move back into the barn. Splutters reaches the barn window, jumps up but is caught and thrown to the ground by Ambrose. Molly picks up a jug of water. Ambrose is holding a struggling Splutters outside the barn door. Molly appears at the open window above them. Splutters tries to open the barn door but Ambrose pushes him back. Molly throws the water, misses Ambrose and soaks Splutters. Molly looks alarmed. Ambrose kicks Splutters and chases him again. To escape, Splutters dives under a cart. He comes out the other side lying on the ground by Grimes and the stranger. Splutters looks terrified. Grimes looks worriedly at the stranger. Man looks down. Grimes' eyes shift around then he looks down. Molly closes the barn window. Splutters gets up and stands by the cart. Ambrose, the other side of the cart, creeps away. Stranger speaks to Grimes. Intertitle "That your young-un?" Man talking. Grimes listens, then looks at boy, slaps his neck and speaks. Intertitle "He's-he's-a-a orphant. I been giving him a home". Grimes tries to get boy to come to him, eventually reaches out and grabs him while talking to the stranger. Molly looks horrified. Grimes pats Splutters on the back, the stranger rubs his chin and looks at the boy then speaks. Intertitle - wants a boy to work. Man talking. Grimes listens, then looks down and up. Intertitle "how much money would yer give fer him?". Man grabs Splutters, squeezes him, picks him up a few times. Molly watching. Men discuss terms, Grimes gestures at the pig pen. Intertitle "He'd ought ter be wuth half as much as the hawg". Price agreed, man puts the boy on the cart and gets out his wallet to pay. Molly turns to other kids. Intertitle "Oh - he's takin' Splutters away!". She looks around the group. Close up of angry boy. Intertitle "How come his prayers git answered? He ain't no sparrow". Boy talking. Molly speaks back. Intertitle - says its Splutter's turn. Molly wags her finger. Boy still angry. Intertitle "Aw, hop-toads!". Boy talking. He walks off and Molly wags her finger after him. The boy walks up and down on his own. The cart trundles up to the gate, dog barking and jumping on its chain, Grimes opens up. The kids stick their hands through cracks in the barn wall to wave goodbye. Splutters, on back of cart, checks no-one is looking then blows a kiss. Hands waving through cracks. Splutters waves. The gate is open, cart drives out, Grimes shuts the gate behind it. Molly is crying, sits at top of the ladder, kids gather around. Ambrose appears outside the barn and shouts. The kids go down the ladder. Ambrose standing shouting outside. Molly helps the small kids get down the bottom of the ladder. They open the barn doors and rush out, a little boy falls over. Molly reaches down and picks him up, focus on her legs when a potato drops out of her dress. Ambrose looks down surprised. All 3 look down then the little boy and Molly look up at Ambrose. He talks. Intertitle "Been swipin' pertaters again, hey?". Little boy walks off, Molly looks worried. Ambrose talks. Molly feels her ear, thinking, then starts to look up. He looks up too. She looks at him. He is looking up. She looks down. Close up of her foot heeling the potato away. It rolls into a hens nest. Molly starts to whistle. The hen settles back down. Molly , whistling and looking innocent, tries to walk off but Ambrose turns and grabs her. He holds her by the hair and talks. She looks worried, he shouts. Intertitle "Pa--Ma--Pa!". Ambrose waves them over. Grimes gestures for his wife to investigate and goes into the house, she starts over. The kids in the vegetable patch are watching. Mrs Grimes comes over, Ambrose still holding Molly's hair, he lets go and points down at the ground but can't see a potato, he explains. Intertitle "Well, it was here a minute ago". Close up of Ambrose. Mrs Grimes looks down at Molly, who looks up nervously, Mrs G grabs one of Molly's arms and shakes her. Potatoes fall out of her dress and rain onto the ground. Mrs G stops shaking and they both look down. Potatoes litter the ground. Mrs G tells her off. Intertitle - no supper for anyone. Mrs G talking. Molly looks close to tears. Mrs G says a few words. Molly begs for the others. Intertitle "Please ma'am - the kids don't git enough to eat - an' the little baby's awful sick --". Molly looks pathetic. Intertitle "…if I go without for two nights, couldn't the rest have a little somethin' ?". Molly tries to hold Mrs G's hand but she pulls it away and points for her to go, Molly begs again and Mrs G grabs her head and throws her violently into the vegetable patch. Molly arrives there at speed and knocks over two small kids in the process. Mrs G makes Ambrose pick up the potatoes and follows him out of sight.
Its night, rain lashing down, see the farmhouse with all its windows lit. Inside Grimes' family are having dinner, Ambrose grabbing extra food when he can. In the barn kids sit around quietly. Molly is checking supplies, pours water into a bottle. Rain lashes down on the outside of the barn. Molly cuts fingers off a rubber glove with broken scissors then fits the end over the bottle, bits the end of and tests the contents on the back of her hand. She goes over to feed the baby. The baby is asleep in an improvised hammock/crib, the teat is pushed into its mouth. Molly looks down. Close up of her hand feeling the babies cheek and holding its hand. Molly looks worried, reaches down to pick up the baby. She carries the child across the loft, sits on a crate with the babe in arms so she can feed it. Rain lashes down on the barn. Intertitle "Under cover of the same storm, the partners of Mr Grimes had worked swiftly and thoroughly". The front of a large 'plantation style' mansion. Inside a uniformed nurse mounts stairs and crosses and large hall to go into a room on the far side. She enters, closes door, and notices the top of a ladder poking up outside an open window, she looks at wet footprints and rushes to the window in alarm. A man in black tie climbs the stairs and goes to another door off the hallway. The nurse screams. The man pauses halfway through the doorway and turns at the sound. The nurse is looking in an empty playpen, still screaming. The man rushes across the hall. He bursts into the nursery, the nurse explains and takes him to the open window. Another man, in white tie, crosses the hall. He enters the room and interrupts the explanation, the first man sends him to raise the alarm, pushing him out when he is slow to move. The man in white tie runs across the hallway to the telephone. The first man and the nurse run out of the nursery. The man in black tie grabs the telephone and speaks urgently into it, the nurse rushes up with more information then weeps.
The kids are sitting in the barn, Molly rocking the baby. A small boy comes up to talk to her. Intertitle "I'm awful empty Molly". He opens his mouth so that she can look in and see, she strokes his hair, other kids come over to look down his throat. Intertitle "I bet I'm emptier". They look down a girls throat. Another girl talks. Intertitle "I'm twice as emptier than everybody -- look it!". She points to her mouth. Kids leave Molly. They gather round the girl to look in each others mouths. Molly warns them to be quiet for the baby. Grimes limps through rain towards the gate. He peers through a hole. Still holding the baby, Molly opens a box and takes out a book of bible stories. She looks sad and then heavenwards. The kids play in the barn Grimes has the gate open. Headlights seen approaching. Grimes holds a gate as a car drives in and then shuts it behind the vehicle. The car stops outside the house. Mrs G looks round. 3 men approach the house, one is carrying a bundle. Grimes enters first followed by a smartly dressed man and the 3rd with the bundle which he places on the table and unwraps to reveal a small girl. The child is richly dressed and sits up looks around. Mrs G looks uncertain. The smartly dressed man gets his wallet out and pays Grimes. Mrs G looks worried. The man gives Grimes instructions and puts his wallet away. Mrs G still looks worried. Mr G replies. The bay girl is watching and says something and points. Mr G asks a question and the smartly dressed man replies. Intertitle "None of your business who she is! You're getting' your cut!". Grimes leads the other two men out again.
Molly is reading to the kids. Picture of Nativity in the book. Molly looks down at the baby. A close up of its face as a blanket puller back. Molly feels its hands, then feels another girls cheek and then Amy's, puts her hand to her mouth in worry. Close up of baby again. Molly rocks the child surrounded by the kids, one asks a question and points. A finger is pointing at the Nativity scene. Child talking. Intertitle "Molly, was he cold an' hungry like us?". Small girl looks pathetic. Molly nods. Intertitle "-- an' He was born in a barn - just like this" Molly talking, Small boy asks question. Intertitle "Are you sure He ain't forgot about us?". Molly replies. Intertitle "He never forgets. He keeps a list of everything in His big book". Molly speaks. Boy comments. Intertitle - god forgot the boy had toothache. Boy talking. Molly replies. Grimes holds gate open while the car drives out and then shuts it. Amy moves its arm. Molly feels her temperature and looks concerned, covers with a blanket and rocks it. Grimes limps back through the rain to the house. He turns by the door and yells. Intertitle "Hey - you, Molly!". She hears and replies. Grimes calls her over. She starts to get up. He goes into the house. She puts the baby back in its hammock/crib and gets another child to rock it. Grimes takes off his coat in the house. Molly runs through the rain. She appears at the door and wipes her feet, Grimes points to the child. The cute baby gurgles. Molly looks enchanted. The baby tries to crawl. Molly, alarmed, rushes forward. She sits the baby back up, the baby laughs and grabs at her. Mrs G looks on sourly. Molly and the child kiss and play, Molly admires its dress and shoes. Grimes gestures her to take it out. Molly is astonished.
Intertitle "Do you honestly mean I can have her--- for keeps?". Grimes just signals her to get out, Molly wraps up the child and starts to leave. As she passes Grimes he takes away the smart baby blanket. Mrs G looks on. Molly finds a sack to put the baby in and then goes out. She runs through the rain with the baby. Grimes wraps the blanket round his shoulders and sits at the table. Molly brings the new child into the barn. She unwraps it and looks around. Intertitle "come and see the new baby". The boy with toothache isn't impressed. Intertitle "seen one seen 'em all". Molly shows off the fancy clothes. Amy is crying. Molly picks up the new child and goes over to a cot. She takes the child there out ad lays him on the floor, then puts the baby in. Other baby still crying. Molly rushes over and picks her up and then walks with her. Moll sits asleep on the crate holding the baby. A vision of Jesus as a shepherd appears on the barn wall, he gets up and walks out of the picture to Molly and blesses her, takes the baby and walks off back into the picture, the vision fades. Molly awakes, looks down hand to mouth, starts, the looks to heaven and smiles and nods sadly. The baby has died. ( sob!)
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