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Silent Serial SensationsThe Wharton Brothers and the Magic of Early Cinema$
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Barbara Tepa Lupack

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748189

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748189.001.0001

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Moving into Feature Filmmaking

Moving into Feature Filmmaking

(p.183) Chapter 12 Moving into Feature Filmmaking
Silent Serial Sensations

Barbara Tepa Lupack

Cornell University Press

This chapter looks at a controversial release by the Wharton brothers: the five-reel feature The Black Stork (1917). Advertised as a “eugenics love story,” the film told a fictionalized story based on the actual 1915 “Bollinger Case,” in which Dr. Harry J. Haiselden, the chief surgeon at the German-American Hospital in Chicago, refused to perform a life-saving surgery on a severely disabled infant, “Baby [John] Bollinger.” Hoping to clear himself before the American public, Haiselden decided to participate, and even to star, in The Black Stork. In addition to its central premise that it is necessary, even laudable, to ensure the integrity of society by terminating the lives of “defectives,” the film drew a further direct and unfortunate link between hereditary defects and ethnicity, class, and race. The chapter also considers the first new Wharton production of 1917, The Great White Trail. The film was less controversial than The Black Stork, but its subplot of white slavery and prostitution also elicited some concerns.

Keywords:   Wharton brothers, feature film, feature filmmaking, The Black Stork, eugenics, Bollinger Case, Harry J. Haiselden, disability, hereditary defects, The Great White Trail

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