Human Wreckage (1923)

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Dorothy Davenport billed herself by her private name, Mrs. Wallace Reid, for this melodrama about drug addiction. She was making a powerful point by doing so because her husband, film star Wallace Reid, had died at the beginning of 1923 as a result of his morphine habit. An exploitative bit of propaganda, Human Wreckage was nevertheless well made -- Davenport was supported by a solid cast that included James Kirkwood, Bessie Love, and Robert McKim, and the screenplay was written by C. Gardner Sullivan. Jimmy Browne, a junkie (George Hackathorne), is arrested after robbing a pawnshop, and his friend Mary Finnegan (Love) approaches Ethel MacFarland (Davenport) about the dilemma. Ethel's husband Alan (Kirkwood) is a lawyer of note, and he gets Browne released to a sanitarium to be cured. MacFarland is overworked, and his doctor (McKim) prescribes narcotics. Soon he is hooked, adverselt affecting his life and his work -- he even makes sure that Steve Stone (Harry Northrup), the head of the drug ring, gets acquitted of charges. Eventually he begs his wife to take him away so that he can kick his habit., but he is only able to quit for good when he believes that Ethel herself is succumbing to the lure of drugs. Now cured, he heads a campaign to wipe out drugs. Stone tries to escape, but Browne, who is driving him away, runs the car into a train, killing them both. This picture was made in the wake of several notorious Hollywood scandals -- Reid's drug addiction being only one -- and was a weak attempt to convince Middle America that the film capital was willing to clean up its act.

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addiction, drugs, fatigue, lawyer