The Crime of Carelessness
R: Harold M. Shaw. B: James Oppenheim. D: Bigelow Cooper, Mabel Trunnelle, Austin Conroy. P: Edison Company. USA 1912
Filmed with the cooperation of the Children’s Motion Picture League of Greater New York to highlight the subject of factory safety. (IMDb)
“Inspired by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan, New York City on March 25, 1911. It was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men – who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling/jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three.”
“A particularly fascinating curio, independently made, is The Crime of Carelessness, commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers in 1912. One year before The Crime of Carelessness was released, 146 garment workers were incinerated when the Triangle Waist Company’s Greenwich Village manufacturing plant caught fire. In the aftermath of the disaster, investigation revealed that the factory’s vehemently antiunion management had turned a blind eye to illegally locked doors and other unsafe conditions that substantially contributed to the fire’s appalling body count.
In lieu of far-reaching reforms, The Crime of Carelessness somewhat democratically — and completely inaccurately — seeks to put equal blame on labor, management, and government regulators by showing a fictional worker ignoring posted no smoking signs and a factory inspector ignoring safety violations. The aftermath of the tragic fire climaxes in a jaw-dropping symbolic confrontation in which the worker, the factory owner, and the inspector are frozen in a three-way, finger-pointing standoff that simultaneouslly evokes the accusatory tone of nineteenth-century, issue-oriented melodrama and the future films of John Woo.”