Synopsis by Janiss Garza
This was Emil Jannings' first American-made picture, and his portrayal is reminiscent of his characters in his previous films, The Last Laugh and Variety, and would later be echoed in The Blue Angel. Jannings' powerful performance, along with his acting in The Last Command, would win him the first Academy Award for Best Actor. August Schiller (Jannings) is a content husband and father of six children who works as a cashier for the Germania Bank. He is sent to Chicago with some of the bank's securities and during the train ride he is thoroughly vamped by Mayme, a cheap little crook (Phyllis Haver). Mayme takes Schiller on a wild debauch and when he wakes up in a sordid transient hotel, he realizes that she has made off with the securities. He goes in search of her and is attacked by a thug (Fred Kohler) who steals his valuables. As the two men struggle, the thug falls in front of a train and is killed. A few days later, Schiller reads in the paper that the thug was identified as him, so instead of disgracing his family he decides to remain living in secret. Years later, when he is completely down and out, he hears that his son (Donald Keith) is now a famous violinist. On Christmas, he makes his way to his old home and watches the holiday feast through a window. He is driven away and crawls back into obscurity. Ironically, Belle Bennett, who played Schiller's wife, was the star of the 1925 version of Stella Dallas, a tale which ends in a similar fashion. The Way of All Flesh was based on a story by Perley Poore Sheehan.
love, assumed-identity, bank, bank-personnel, bonds [investments], boy, bum, death, encounter, family, family-abandonment, father, flapper, friendship, furlough, home, honeymoon, honor [recognition], house, husband, man, mistaken-identity, muscles, return, self-sacrifice, shame, son, struggle, success, ticket, train [locomotive], violinist, wife