Two Orphans (1915)

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This picture is based on the same story that became D.W. Griffith's Orphans of the Storm in 1921. This version, made by the Fox Studios, stars famous "vamp" actress Theda Bara in the role that Lillian Gish later made famous! This choice in casting however, is not as odd as it seems -- or rather, it's no stranger than casting the former Theodosia Goodman as a vamp in the first place. Off-camera she was not the seductress her films made her out to be, and she was looking forward to doing something different as the adopted sister Henrietta in The Two Orphans. The role of Henrietta's sister, the blind Louise, was given to Jean Southern, a vaudeville actress who made her debut -- and an impressive one -- here. Director Herbert Brenon cast himself as Pierre, the abusive hunchback who tortures Louise. The tale of the two poverty-stricken French sisters and their trials and tribulations was already considered an old chestnut back in the teens, but a lot of care was nevertheless taken in its filming, with part of it shot on location in Montreal. Why Fox bothered at all is the question, since they released it quietly, without any fanfare. When it did bad business, the studio claimed it was because the public wanted to see Bara play vamp. Theda, on the other hand, chalked it up to bad promotion; she may have been right, since the few reviews the picture did receive were highly complementary of her performance.