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The Transformation of Mike (1912) Online

The Transformation of Mike (1912) Online
Original Title :
The Transformation of Mike
Genre :
Movie / Crime / Short / Drama
Year :
Directror :
D.W. Griffith
Cast :
Wilfred Lucas,Blanche Sweet,Edna Foster
Writer :
Wilfred Lucas
Type :
Time :
Rating :

Mike breaks into an apartment to steal an old man's money, not realizing it's his girlfriend's father. When he discovers whose apartment it is, he begs her for forgiveness.

The Transformation of Mike (1912) Online

Mike, a gang leader, never before knew what power there was in a good woman's persuasion, and when he met the little girl of the tenement he involuntarily exclaimed, "There's a real girl." At a dance given in the neighborhood, he hunts for her and despite the efforts of her friends to oppose it, she promises to be his girl. The next day, while in the corner saloon, he sees a bill collector with quite an amount of money. He attempts to get this money and is about to succeed when he discovers that the collector is the father of the girl. He now fully realizes how despicable he is, and handing back the money, he goes with a promise to prove himself worthy of her.
Credited cast:
Wilfred Lucas Wilfred Lucas - Mike
Blanche Sweet Blanche Sweet - The Tenement Girl
Edna Foster Edna Foster - The Tenement Girl's Brother
William J. Butler William J. Butler - The Tenement Father
Kate Bruce Kate Bruce - The Neighbor
Christy Cabanne Christy Cabanne - The Hallway Masher (as W. Christy Cabanne)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Max Davidson Max Davidson - Landlord
John T. Dillon John T. Dillon - A Policeman / At Dance
Frank Evans Frank Evans - A Policeman
Robert Harron Robert Harron - At Dance
Grace Henderson Grace Henderson - At Dance
J. Jiquel Lanoe J. Jiquel Lanoe - In Bar / At Dance
Joseph McDermott Joseph McDermott - In Bar / At Dance
Gus Pixley Gus Pixley - At Dance
W.C. Robinson W.C. Robinson - In Bar / At Dance

A print of this film survives in the UCLA Film and Television Archives.

User reviews

mym Ђудęm ęгσ НuK

mym Ђудęm ęгσ НuK

Once you've watched a lot of early silent dramas you notice certain themes which recur on a regular basis. A popular motif in nickelodeon days was that of the criminal who reforms and chooses a better mode of life, usually thanks to the love of a good woman who believes in him. This plot turns up often, especially in the Westerns of William S. Hart (and others), as well as in contemporary crime stories. By the mid-1910s the reformation trope was so familiar it was ripe for spoofing; Charlie Chaplin utilized it in his two-reel comedy 'Police,' which was itself a reworking of His Regeneration, a serious drama starring Broncho Billy Anderson in which Chaplin had appeared in a cameo role.

D. W. Griffith's short drama The Transformation of Mike, made for the American Biograph Company in 1912, uses the theme in a straightforward fashion. Familiar leading man Wilfred Lucas, who also wrote the scenario, plays Mike, a young man who takes a room in a tenement. He encounters a young woman (Blanche Sweet) who lives in the same building with her father and brother. Despite their modest lodgings Blanche's father is fairly prosperous, and he makes the mistake of flashing a wad of bills in a tavern. Mike notices the man's money, but is unaware that he's Blanche's father.

Later, when Mike sees Blanche at a neighborhood party, he invites her to dance with him. Her friends warn her away, however; it seems he has a reputation as a dubious character. She refuses him and dances with a bland young fellow instead. Mike brusquely cuts in and orders the other man away. Blanche is offended by this, and steadfastly refuses to dance with him. They argue, and we get the sense that, despite his anger, Mike rather admires her spirit.

Soon afterward, back at the tenement, Mike breaks into the apartment where the prosperous man lives, ties him up, and robs him. Blanche and her brother, in the next room, react fearfully and take cover; the boy escapes in a dumbwaiter and alerts the police. And then Mike and Blanche see each other, and Mike realizes he's robbing her father. He's shocked of course, and so is she. (Talk about awkward!) They talk it over briefly, and Mike is ashamed. When the police arrive, Blanche helps him escape, and it's implied he'll go straight and become a better person. We never find out whether Mike is truly "transformed," so the ending is ambiguous, but hopeful.

The Transformation of Mike tells its tale in a direct and uncluttered fashion, and is performed with the earnest intensity we associate with the Biograph players. One unusual aspect of this film is that an unedited print exists; that is, a reel of the original rushes, as they appeared before Griffith edited them into the finished product. While it's common knowledge that movies are usually filmed out of sequence, it's nonetheless interesting to see how the director and his crew organized this raw material. For instance, all the scenes at the top of the tenement stairs were filmed back to back; and then, all the scenes at the bottom of the stairs were done the same way. Various characters come and go, the police dash in and out, etc. It looks like a jumble, but of course, by 1912 Griffith had become quite expert at assembling these random pieces of film into a perfectly coherent and satisfying whole. The Transformation of Mike, in its finished form, stands as a good example of what made Griffith's Biograph output the top dramatic short films of the era.


DW Griffith's best known gangster picture, in fact the film that some say established the genre, was the renowned Musketeers of Pig Alley. However The Transformation of Mike, made a few months earlier, is a very worthy predecessor.

Like The Sunbeam, which appeared around the same time, Transformation of Mike sees Griffith working on a small canvas, with a handful of indoor sets arranged as if we are looking into a doll's house. Also as in The Sunbeam, he uses this arrangement to develop the intimacy and romance of the story. At the beginning, his crosscutting back and forth between Wilfred Lucas and Blanche Sweet implies a kind of inevitability in their eventually meeting. Later in the neighbourhood dance scene, he contrasts between two camera set-ups which are apparently supposed to be different ends of the same room. However one shows a crowded dance floor, the other a secluded table – two very different spaces. When Sweet walks away from Lucas, back to the dance floor, his standing alone among the empty tables reflects his feeling of abandonment.

There are very few intertitles here – just a small scattering to set each scene. The actors work exceptionally well at conveying feelings and intentions entirely through body language and facial expression. This may well be Wilfred Lucas' best performance, making the most of his brief period as Biograph's main male lead. Blanche Sweet had been an extra at Biograph since 1909, but here she is just starting to emerge as a leading lady despite still being very young.

This is a rarely seen Griffith short, only recently having become available on Youtube, and not featuring on any DVD compilation. It's not at all bad though, and shows the development of the gangster film as well as Griffith's handling of romantic drama.


A melodrama of the underworld with incidents of the usual, outworn kind, such as escapes down a dumbwaiter, the escape of the crook with the help of his sweetheart, etc. The picture's story shows a gangster reformed through love. The meeting of this youth and the girl and the progress of the romance at the dance hall and on the stairs of the tenement, etc., are often pretty, but not very new or vital. The gangster got a glimpse of money in the possession of a collector who was the girl's father, but he didn't know this. He broke into his rooms at night. The girl's small brother got down the dumb-waiter and brought the police. But in the meantime, the girl and the gangster have recognized each other and when the police arrive, she helps him to slip away, not very convincingly. It will serve as a very fair filler, because it was artistically posed and photographed, even if it wasn't very convincingly written or acted. - The Moving Picture World, February 17, 1912


Transformation of Mike, The (1912)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Extremely entertaining drama from Griffith about a gangster named Mike (Wilfred Lucas) who moves into a tenement building to start over. At a dance he meets a young lady (Blanche Sweet) and quickly falls for her but with no money to take her out he decides to do a robbery. Mike eventually breaks into the house of an old man with money but he doesn't realize that it's his girl's father. The film deals with a bad man seeing his wrong ways and changing and this here is a subject that Griffith went to many times. Once again Griffith's strong direction really does wonders as he's able to make a rather cute romantic comedy with the two people meeting yet he then switches gears flawlessly as we see Mike terrorizing the family, not knowing who they really are. Lucas is terrific in his role as should be expected since he also wrote the story. The always impressive Sweet does her typical great job and William J. Butler is fine as her father.