Tortured Heart (1916)

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Although she was sometimes known as a second-string vamp to Theda Bara (even though her film career began before Miss Bara's), Virginia Pearson had the foresight to realize she wouldn't stay young and sexy forever. In this picture, made during the first few years of her film career, she already chooses a character role, aging from a young woman to a gray-haired matron. A Southern girl (Pearson) is forced to give up her baby after her brother kills her husband in a duel. Although she leaves the infant on the doorstep of a minister, she manages to stay in the child's life by becoming her godmother. When the girl grows up (to be played by Marian Swayne), she becomes romantically involved with crook posing as a music teacher (Stuart Holmes), who discovers her true parentage. He blackmails the mother, then marries the girl so he can continue getting money out of her. But his activities come to an end when he is caught cheating at cards. He is chased down and killed, and the girl returns to her mother, who reveals her true identity.