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The Regeneration (1915)

A boy surrounded by violence grows up to become an infamous gangster.


Raoul Walsh (as R.A. Walsh)


Owen Frawley Kildare (book) (as Owen Kildare), Raoul Walsh (adapted from the book: "My Mamie Rose") (as R.A. Walsh) | 1 more credit »
1 win. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
John McCann John McCann ... Owen - Age Ten
James A. Marcus ... Jim Conway (as James Marcus)
Maggie Weston Maggie Weston ... Maggie Conway
Harry McCoy ... Owen - Age Seventeen (as H. McCoy)
Rockliffe Fellowes ... Owen - Age Twenty-Five
William Sheer William Sheer ... Skinny - One of the Gang
Carl Harbaugh ... District Attorney Ames
Anna Q. Nilsson ... Marie Deering


At 10 years old, Owens becomes a ragged orphan when his sainted mother dies. The Conways, who are next door neighbors, take Owen in, but the constant drinking by Jim soon puts Owen on the street. By 17, Owen learns that might is right. By 25, Owen is the leader of his own gang who spend most of their time gambling and drinking. But Marie comes into the gangster area of town and everything changes for Owen as he falls for Marie. But he cannot tell her so, so he comes to her settlement to find education and inspiration. But soon, his old way of life will rise to confront him again. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


WILLIAM FOX Presents "THE REGENERATION" (title on original-release poster) See more »








Release Date:

13 September 1915 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Regeneration See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Fox Film Corporation See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Most of the extras in this film were real locals from the Bowery area, as well as from Hell's Kitchen, and had never appeared before in films. Most of the gangster characters were actual gangsters in real life. See more »


District Attorney Ames: Very fine and loyal, my boy, but you can't save your friend, and you have lost whatever chance you had - with her.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is no cast list during the opening credits or at the end. Actors, however, are credited by intertitles as they appear within the movie, and that is used for the IMDb cast ordering. Actors never mentioned are marked uncredited. See more »

Alternate Versions

Kino International released a version which runs 72 minutes and contains an uncredited piano score. See more »

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User Reviews

"Her soul, the noblest and purest thing I ever knew"
29 October 2008 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

In cinema, 1915 is best known as the year of DW Griffith's epic Birth of a Nation. While I won't play down the talents and achievements of Griffith, his debut feature was merely a culmination of his prior achievements, a milestone in cinema culture but adding nothing to cinematic language. Regeneration however, a largely overlooked film (although it has its champions), was perhaps truly the most important picture of that year.

Raoul Walsh, previously an assistant to Griffith, and already having a handful of short features to his name, made his full-length debut with this romantic gangster fable. The picture opens fairly conventionally for the time, Walsh displaying an incredibly firm grasp of film form for such a young director. The opening shot establishes the mood - the recently bereaved protagonist sitting alone in a bare room, a curtain billowing forlornly behind him, after which we cut away to the hearse bearing his mother in the street outside. However, we then see the lad go to the window and look down. In the very next shot, the camera is looking down at the hearse, exactly as he would see it. Bam! The point-of-view shot is born.

The point-of-view shot is not merely a convenient alternative angle for storytelling. It places the audience into the position of the character. It's something unique to cinema – you can't recreate that in the theatre. The only real equivalent is in novels, when the narrative is told from a character's perspective. Walsh here gives cinema that ability, and moves the audience from the position of spectator to that of participant. It's particularly apt too for Regeneration, as it was adapted from an autobiography. Walsh remains consistent to the story's roots by primarily showing the points of view of the protagonist, Owen.

Another great thing about Regeneration is its use of dolly shots – that is, moving the camera in or out, towards or away from the action. This wasn't an innovation as such, the dolly having been invented by Giovanni Pastrone for his 1914 epic Cabiria, but the dolly shots in that picture are largely uninspired, at best creating smooth transitions between different length shots. Walsh however really explores the possibilities of the technique. First he uses it to home in on the young Owen in the scene where his adoptive parents argue over the dinner table. Again this is a move which draws us into the character's world, as if we are being pulled forward and forced to look. Much later, in the scene where Anna Q. Nilsson bursts into the gangster's den, the camera itself rushes forward, reaching the centre of the shot at the same pace she does. In effect, the camera movement mimics hers and gives the audience a little taste of her sense of urgency.

Needless to say, there is a lot more to Regeneration than these pioneering camera techniques. Walsh's handling of the dynamic moments is particularly adept, with a climactic ride-to-the-rescue worthy of Griffith, and some particularly realistic fight scenes. But he was just as capable of great tenderness as he was of great action, and the picture is shot through with the sense of melancholy romanticism that is typical of Walsh. And let's not forget the fine naturalistic acting on display, although stars Rockliffe Fellowes and Anna Q. Nilsson would soon fade into obscurity.

By way of a disclaimer, I should point out that Regeneration may not literally be the first motion picture to use point-of-view shots. There was, after all, a wealth of experimentation in the early days of cinema, and many films are obscure or lost. It is shortly after this though that the technique seems to enter mainstream usage. For example, Cecil B. DeMille's The Cheat, made several months after Regeneration, features point-of-view shots, whereas DeMille's Carmen, made about the same time as Regeneration, does not. Tag Gallagher, in his superb essay on Walsh for Senses of Cinema, makes similar claims. Whatever the case, Walsh certainly excelled in a new kind of cinema, one which placed the audience inside the story, and this principle would shape much of Walsh's work throughout his fifty-year career.

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