A Famous Plagiarism

Den hvide slavehandel (The white slave trade)
R: August Blom*. K: Axel Graatkjær. D: Ellen Rindom, Svend Bille, Lauritz Olsen, Einar Zangenberg, Victor Fabian. P: Fotorama/Nordisk Films Kompagni. Dk 1910
Print: Det Danske Filminstitut
Engl. subtitles
* following Det Danske Filminstitut: Alfred Cohn

“Anna, a young girl from a poor but honest household, is offered an attractive position as a lady’s companion in London. Her childhood friend is worried, but she goes anyway. To Anna’s horror, the ‘distinguished house’ turns out to be a brothel, but she manages to overpower her first customer. A helpful maid smuggles out a letter to her parents, and they alert the League for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic. The childhood friend travels to England and hires a detective. Together, they find the brothel and Anna. They arrange her escape. Anna lowers herself down from her window, but after an automobile chase, the slavers overpower her liberators and abduct her again. Fortunately, the maid alerts Scotland Yard, and on board the ship they had hoped to escape on, the villains are caught and Anna freed.

This film is a brazen, setup-for-setup rip-off of an identically titled film, Den hvide Slavehandel, made in the spring of 1910 by the film company Fotorama in Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus. The Fotorama version was the first Danish feature-length film (3 reels), and it was phenomenally successful. Nordisk wanted in on the action, and they simply plagarized the film, scoring a huge hit outside Denmark. Fotorama threatened legal action, but the matter was settled out of court, apparently to the satisfaction of everyone concerned. Only a few fragments of the Fotorama version survive, but the similarity is evident. Nordisk even copied technical refinements like the three-panel split screen image, where two of the villains have a telephone conversation in the side panels while the central panel shows a busy street (this portion of the Fotorama version does not survive, but it was described in a contemporary newpaper review).
European Gateway

527-Slave trade Advertising poster

Further reading: Jean Allain – White Slave Traffic in International Law