The Little Girl Next Door (1912)
Produced by the Thanhouser Film Company, this is a 14 minute one-reeler tragedy with a bittersweet ending that features the talents of William Garwood, Marguerite Snow, the then-12 year-old twins Marion and Madeleine Fairbanks, and William Russell.
The film starts off with Garwood and Snow preparing for a walk through the park with their daughter. However, their daughter wishes to invite another little girl, whose father is played by Russell. He gives his permission and stays home while his own daughter goes. Along with their maid, Garwood, Snow and the girls finally set off.
The maid is trusted to accompany the girls through the park while the parents rest on a bench. Unfortunately, the maid and a policeman start a conversation, and while their backs are turned Marion and Madeleine sneak away. They spot a row boat and climb in, paddling away into the lake.
Garwood and Snow search for the maid and the girls, and all are horrified when they realize that Marion and Madeleine are gone. Just then, the girls' rowboat tips over, and Snow watches helplessly while Garwood removes his hat and jacket, jumps in and swims out towards the capsized boat. He manages to retrieve his own daughter, while her friend insists that he take her to safety first and come back for her.
Russell has also arrived, and immediately gets in the water to rescue his daughter. Garwood and Snow both reach the boat, but she has gone under. She is retrieved and brought to land, but declared dead, much to Russell's grief.
A year later, Russell is still deeply affected and blames Garwood for his child's death. He plans to financially ruin him and tells him so. Garwood comes home and tells his wife the bad news. Their daughter overhears and leaves to talk to Russell, but his butler won't allow her in. Undeterred, she sneaks into his car, hiding by the window in the corner of the passenger seat. Sure enough, she initially goes unnoticed when Russell climbs in the back.
Russell is surprised to see the girl, and she pleads with him to forgive her father. He imagines his own daughter's spirit imploring him also to forgive. He experiences a change of heart, and when he arrives at Garwood's home, the girl leads him in. She brings Russell to her father, and the two make up.
I think viewers will appreciate the use of double exposure in this film for the portrayal of the little girl's spirit talking to her father. Notice, as well, her lips clearly saying 'forgive'. The story is perhaps a bit constrained by the limits of only one reel, but it's a nice short drama. The Fairbanks twins steal the show - along with their pleasantly natural acting, they're just so cute!
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