THE DEVIL’S BAIT. Balbao-General Film, 1917. Ruth Roland, William Conklin, Henry King, Ed Brady, Myrtle Reeves, Lucy Blake, Gordon Sackville. Scenario by Will M. Ritchey. Director: Harry Harvey. Shown at Cinecon 44, Hollywood CA, Aug-Sept 2008.

   Another of those sentimental morality plays that I have an almost inordinate fondness for, which could be a lingering effect of my upbringing in a Southern Baptist church.

   I was initially drawn to this film by the presence of Ruth Roland, a major chapter play star in the 1920s whom my mother still remembered with pleasure when I was a child. Here she was not required to exhibit any athletic prowess, but showed some skill at portraying an attractive young woman, brought up by a strict but loving father, whose checkered past almost helps bring about the downfall of his virtuous daughter, lured by an unscrupulous letch with jewels that captivate the eye and destroy the soul.

   This agent of the devil is, of course, foiled and punished, but there’s some splendid melodrama along the way, with intermittent appearances by an actor clothed in a tight-fitting devil’s suit who should have spent more time working out before he took on the role.