Ghost of Rosy Taylor (1918)

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One of the few surviving silent films of director Edward Sloman, The Ghost of Rosy Taylor contains one of the most powerful opening sequences in any picture. Two society ladies discuss their servants, with one of them recommending her new "hired girl" Rosie Taylor. The other lady reacts with shock and surprise, commenting that Rosie Taylor is dead. Deciding to investigate, the two dowagers venture into the home where "Rosie" is supposedly employed, only to be frightened out of their by a series of eerie "haunted house" noises (brilliant conveyed in entirely visual terms!) After this powerhouse prologue, the plot proper begins with a flashback, as heroine Rhoda (Mary Miles Minter), an American girl who has spent several years in Paris, returns to New York City without a penny to her name. She comes across a letter of recommendation for a cleaning woman named Rosy Taylor -- and, in dire need of money, decides to become Rosy Taylor herself, never realizing that the real Rosy has long since departed this earth. Rhoda's impulsive action completely changes not only her life, but the lives of everyone whom she meets. Despite the substandard quality of available prints, The Ghost of Rosy Taylor retains its original excellence and entertainment value. Curiously, director Sloman always considered the film to be one of his lesser efforts, citing his difficulties in extracting a convincing performance out of his 17-year-old star Mary Miles Minter. Evidently he succeeded, since Minter was far more believable here than in any of her other existing prints -- and whenever her performance falters, Sloman wisely cuts away to something else (in fact, the editing in this picture is fantastic, equalling and sometimes exceeding the best of D.W. Griffith). The Ghost of Rosy Taylor is currently available on video from a variety of reliable sources.