Magic Skin (1915)

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A story by Honore de Balzac served as the foundation for the Edison five-reeler The Magic Skin. Everett Butterfield was cast as Ralph Valentine, the volatile musician son of a wealthy man. Upon the death of his father, Valentine is left penniless, and forced to terminate his musical education. With the help of his former valet Joseph (William West), the opportunistic hero lines up a rich patroness in the form of the libertine Flora (Sally Crute). Obviously a high-class courtesan, Flora twists Valentine around her little finger, and soon he is convinced that she is in love with him. Aware that she has several wealthy benefactors, Valentine tries to impress Flora by purchasing a valuable necklace, but his efforts to raise money at the gambling tables result in humiliating failure. Pauline (Mabel Trunnelle), the daughter of a boarding house keeper, secretly harbors a love for Valentine, and it is she who puts up her dowry money so that he may purchase the necklace, claiming that the cash was inherited from a mysterious stranger. Accepting the money, Valentine takes a nap before purchasing the necklace, whereupon the film segues into a Faust-like dream sequence in which he imagines that he has sold his soul to Satan in exchange for Flora's love -- an act of rashness that eventually results in Pauline's death. Awakening from his nightmare, Valentine at last realizes that he'd be better off with the true-blue Pauline than the fickle Flora.