Synopsis by Hal Erickson
One of the finest films of the pre-1920 era, The Regeneration was the first truly important directorial effort by Raoul Walsh. Spanning several years, this remarkable social document traces the life and times of Irish-American "child of the slums" Owen Conway (Rockliffe Fellowes), who grows up to become a ruthless gangster. Owen's story is paralleled with that of Mamie Rose (Anna Q. Nilsson), who, though born into luxury, abandons her high-society environs to become a settlement worker in the city's slum district. When Owen meets Mamie, who takes it upon himself to teach the surly gangster how to read and write, he begins to realize that he has charted the wrong course in life, thereby taking the first tentative step on the road to regeneration. Complicating the story is the fact that Owen's bitterest enemy, the city's crusading District Attorney (Carl Harbaugh), is also in love with Mamie. Filmed on location in New York's Bowery district (just as seedy-looking in 1915 as it is today), The Regeneration boasts thoroughly believable performances and an astonishing variety of fascinating camera angles (including one dizzying shot of a man falling from a fourth-story window). Long available only for archival showings, the film has become a perennial attraction on the Turner Classic Movies cable-TV service.
District-Attorney, gangster, love-triangle, redemption, slums