Common Cause (1918)

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Since this picture was set for release just scant weeks after the Armistice, Vitagraph decided to promote it as an "after the war" film. A tacked-on prologue illustrates atrocities the Germans inflicted upon Belgium and the subsequent entrance of the Allied nations into the Great War. Then the story kicks in -- Orrin Palmer (Herbert Rawlinson) and his wife, Helene (Sylvia Breamer), are having marital problems. These come to a head when Orrin discovers Helene in a compromising position with Edward Wadsworth (Huntley Gordon) at a Red Cross function. Instead of raising a fuss, Orrin merely tells his wife that he is taking charge of an office in San Francisco, and if she wants, she can begin divorce proceedings. This she does, but before the decree becomes final, her lawyer --who turns out to be a Germany spy -- is killed by a government agent. The matter of the divorce is dropped because of world affairs: Helene encourages Wadsworth to enlist and she herself goes to work at a hospital just behind the lines in Europe; meanwhile Orrin becomes a captain in the Marines. The usual World War I movie action happens -- battles happen, a French village is taken over by the Germans and taken back by the Allied Forces. Helene is in danger of being raped by a German officer, but Orrin saves her. Wadsworth is mortally wounded, and as he lays dying in the hospital he calls for both Orrin and Helene, joining their hands over his fading body. Then there's a tacked-on ending showing the Allied victory in "the common cause." A notable Blackton touch is some comic relief concerning an English Tommy (Lawrence Grossmith), who indulges his hobby of collecting helmets.