One might be inclined to dismiss the title of this film as a contradiction in terms -- but with Lillian Gish in the lead, how could the heroine be anything else but innocent? Based on a story by D.W. Griffith, writing pseudonymously as "Granville Warwick," the story concerns a Kentucky belle named Dorothy Raleigh (Gish), who impulsively marries big-city gambler Forbes Stewart (Sam De Grasse). As a result, Dorothy's grim, taciturn father Colonel Raleigh (Spottiswood Aitken) declares that, so far as he is concerned, his daughter is dead. Inexplicably abandoned by Stewart, the pregnant Dorothy returns home, only to be denied entrance by her unforgiving father. The girl moves to the "colored" section of town, where she gives birth to her baby. Compounding Dorothy's woes is the sudden appearance of Stewart's current mistress (Mary Alden), who claims that she has married Stewart. Disconsolately, Dorothy prepares to take her own life, when Stewart returns, explaining that he has been detained by a trumped-up prison term, and begging his wife's forgiveness. Lillian Gish seldom mentioned An Innocent Magdalene in later years, preferring instead to discuss the concurrently produced Griffith production Intolerance, in which she played a much smaller but far more memorable role.
by Hal Erickson synopsis