Outside the Law (1920)

Drama | 26 December 1920

Director:

Tod Browning

Producer:

Tod Browning

Cinematographer:

William Fildew

Production Designer:

E. E. Sheeley

Production Company:

Universal Film Mfg. Co.
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HISTORY

The film opened in Los Angeles on 26 Dec 1920, but its general release was in Jan 1921. It was re-cut and re-released in mid-1926, and Universal and Tod Browning remade Outside the Law in 1930 (see entry.) Contemporary reviewers credited the scenario to Hubbard alone, but the copyright records credit both Lucien Hubbard and Browning. Pre-production charts in trade journals listed "Harris" as the film's cinematographer, but William Fildew replaced Harris in the charts at the beginning of production. Tom Gubbins worked on the film as a consultant on the authenticity of the Chinese characterizations. Exteriors for the film were shot in San Francisco in Chinatown, on Nob Hill, and in the waterfront area, including the Ferry Building.
       Priscilla Dean and Wheeler Oakman were married at the time.
       A reconstructed print of Outside the Law was screened at the Twenty-Second Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival on 3 Jun 2017. An intertitle card that received the biggest reaction from a modern audience was "You dirty rat." The film was also screened a year later at Cinecon 54 in Hollywood, CA, on 2 Sep ... More Less

The film opened in Los Angeles on 26 Dec 1920, but its general release was in Jan 1921. It was re-cut and re-released in mid-1926, and Universal and Tod Browning remade Outside the Law in 1930 (see entry.) Contemporary reviewers credited the scenario to Hubbard alone, but the copyright records credit both Lucien Hubbard and Browning. Pre-production charts in trade journals listed "Harris" as the film's cinematographer, but William Fildew replaced Harris in the charts at the beginning of production. Tom Gubbins worked on the film as a consultant on the authenticity of the Chinese characterizations. Exteriors for the film were shot in San Francisco in Chinatown, on Nob Hill, and in the waterfront area, including the Ferry Building.
       Priscilla Dean and Wheeler Oakman were married at the time.
       A reconstructed print of Outside the Law was screened at the Twenty-Second Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival on 3 Jun 2017. An intertitle card that received the biggest reaction from a modern audience was "You dirty rat." The film was also screened a year later at Cinecon 54 in Hollywood, CA, on 2 Sep 2018. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Camera
12 Jun 1920.
---
Camera
28 Aug 20
p. 18.
Motion Picture News
21 Aug 1920
p. 1549.
Motion Picture News
25 Dec 1920
pp. 10-11.
Motion Picture News
22 Jan 1921
p. 915.
Moving Picture World
22 Jan 1921
p. 465.
Moving Picture World
15 May 1926
p. 249.
New York Times
12 May 1926
p. 31.
Variety
21 Jan 1921
p. 40.
Wid's
9 Jan 1921
p. 2.
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 December 1920
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Film Mfg. Co.
Copyright Date:
25 January 1921
Copyright Number:
LP16049
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
7,754
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Silent Madden and his daughter Molly, both criminals, are persuaded to reform by Confucian Chang Low, but a frame-up by gang leader Black Mike sends Madden to prison. Unaware of Black Mike's role in the frame-up, an embittered Molly joins his gang and agrees to aid in a jewel robbery, but learning that she likewise is to be framed, she and Dapper Bill Ballard abscond with the jewels and hide out in a tiny apartment. Molly resists Dapper Bill's declarations of love, but the affection of a young boy from the neighboring apartment eventually changes her poor opinion of love and motherhood. The gang finally discovers Bill and Molly's hideout, and a battle ensues that leaves Black Mike dead and Bill and Molly in the hands of the police. Chang Low intervenes, however, and with the return of the jewels, Bill and Molly are ... +


Silent Madden and his daughter Molly, both criminals, are persuaded to reform by Confucian Chang Low, but a frame-up by gang leader Black Mike sends Madden to prison. Unaware of Black Mike's role in the frame-up, an embittered Molly joins his gang and agrees to aid in a jewel robbery, but learning that she likewise is to be framed, she and Dapper Bill Ballard abscond with the jewels and hide out in a tiny apartment. Molly resists Dapper Bill's declarations of love, but the affection of a young boy from the neighboring apartment eventually changes her poor opinion of love and motherhood. The gang finally discovers Bill and Molly's hideout, and a battle ensues that leaves Black Mike dead and Bill and Molly in the hands of the police. Chang Low intervenes, however, and with the return of the jewels, Bill and Molly are freed. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.