The Case of Lena Smith

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The Case of Lena Smith
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Produced by Jesse L. Lasky
Written by Jules Furthman
Julian Johnson (titles)
Story by Samuel Ornitz
Starring Esther Ralston
James Hall
Gustav von Seyffertitz
Emily Fitzroy
Cinematography Harold Rosson
Edited by Helen Lewis
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • January 29, 1929 (1929-01-29) (United States)
Running time
4 mins. (extant fragment)
Country United States
Language Silent
English intertitles

The Case of Lena Smith was a 1929 American short drama film directed by Josef von Sternberg, starring Esther Ralston and James Hall, and released by Paramount Pictures. The film is now considered lost.[1] A four-minute fragment was shown at the 2003 Giornate del cinema muto festival in Pordenone.[2]


In turn-of-the-century Vienna, simple peasant girl Lena Smith falls in love with young aristocrat Franz Hofrat. They are secretly married, despite intense pressure from Hofrat's aristocratic family, and Lena has Franz's child. Slowly but surely, Lena's good nature and unbounded optimism are crushed and shattered by the merciless juggernaut of class consciousness and public opinion, leading to tragedy. When Franz's father takes the baby away Franz, is unable to help, and he commits suicide. When the court refuses Lena's pleas, she steals the baby. In 1914, the child grows up to march off to World War I from a Hungarian village.

In the original script, Lena Smith was a prostitute, but this was written out to avoid audience animosity against the character, and to conform to an early version of the Production Code.


The movie was regarded as a financial failure, but Paramount's decision to withdraw several of its late silent releases from distribution and concentrate on talkies accounts for its relatively small box-office take.[3]


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