The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1918)

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Renowned stage actor Sir John Forbes-Robertson made several forays into motion pictures during the 1910s, most notably in 1913's Hamlet (he defined Hamlet for his generation). Forbes-Robertson had already toured extensively in the Jerome K. Jerome play on which this picture was based, and he starred in this prestigious production, distributed by First National. The tenants of a dreary boarding house in Bloomsbury Square, London, seem to be determined to bring out of the worst of each other's characters. This nasty bunch undergoes a change after the appearance of a mysterious stranger (Forbes-Robertson). Because he refuses to see anything but the best in them, these people -- the dishonest landlady, a socially ambitious mother and father (Germaine Bourville and Alfred Hickman), the morally bankrupt drudge -- begin to live up to his expectations. Once their hatred and greed have transformed into generosity and love, the mysterious stranger disappears. The film was remade as a talkie in 1936.