Veteran Broadway actor Richard Bennett (father of Barbara, Constance and Joan) brought the 1902 French stage sensation +Les Avaries to America in 1913. Dealing forthrightly with the horrors of syphilis, the play was a major triumph for Bennett, who turned it into a seven reel screen attraction the following year. Although no longer in the bloom of youth, Bennett nevertheless played the leading role himself, a conscientious young lawyer who is lead down the garden path by a married woman (Josephine Ditt). Recovering from that indiscretion, Bennett's George Dupont is all set to marry Senator Locke's daughter Henriette (Olive Templeton), when he is once again lead astray, this time by a "girl of the streets" (Adrienne Morrison, Mrs. Bennett in real-life). The encounter leaves him with a bad case of syphilis, and a doctor (Louis Bennison) warns him not to marry for two years, or he will be in violation of the law. Dupont seeks a second opinion and a quack (William Bertram) pronounces him healthy. He marries the senator's daughter and their child is born with the disease. In despair, Dupont takes the coward's way out and drowns himself. Like later exploitation films, Damaged Goods got away with showing scenes of ravaged patients in the syphilis ward, not to mention the rather frank discussions of intercourse, by playing up its educational appeal. Released by the American "Flying A" Company on states rights in September of 1914, the film was picked up by the powerful Mutual Film Corp. the following year and given a highly publicized re-release at New York's Broadway Theatre. Bennett continued to tour with the play for years and a British stage version featured a young Ronald Colman. Alexander Butler directed a British screen version in 1919, which, according to film historian Kevin Brownlow, "came dangerously close to being a series of subtitles" due to the stringent British censorship.
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