- "All unhappiness and world wisdom leave outside. Those without smiles need not enter".
Unity Blake is the most unpopular girl at St. Martha's Orphanage. She gets ignored and bullied even by the younger girls. One day, a woman visits and decides to adopt Unity. Her luck has seemingly changed for the better. On the other side of town, a young woman named Stella Maris lies in her bed; she has been paralyzed since birth. Her wealthy guardians have prevented Stella from learning of the miseries of reality by keeping her locked away in a room. Stella however is happy with her life and oblivious to the world outside of her mansion's doors. The two girls don't know each other yet but they'll be united by a series of unfortunate events.
Stella Maris is a 1918 film starring Mary Pickford and Conway Tearle. It is based on a novel by William J. Locke. It received a remake starring Mary Philbin in 1925. Mary Pickford (and Mary Philbin in the remake) play both Unity and Stella.
Stella Maris contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Unity's adopted mother treats her like a servant and constantly yells at her. She beats her unconscious when she comes home without groceries due to a group of boys stealing them. Louise ends up arrested and sentenced to three years.
- Adopt-a-Servant: Unity is adopted by an alcoholic who wants her to act as her maid.
- The Alcoholic: Louise and John were a happy couple until her drinking habit spiraled out of control and her personality began to change.
- Alcoholic Parent: Drunkard Louise Risca's previous servants would always leave her. So she adopted an orphan so that she can clean her house.
- Beauty Inversion: Mary Pickford plays both the adorable Stella and the quote-unquote "ugly duckling" Unity. Stella is Pickford as usual while Unity is a more plain looking version.
- Bowdlerise: Even in the pre-Code era, the film's dark themes were a bit much. The shooting of Louise is often cut.
- Death of a Child: As a part of Stella learning that life isn't all gumdrops and lollipops, she reads in the newspaper about how a starving mother committed Murder-Suicide with her child.
- Disabled Love Interest: Stella has been paralyzed since birth. Subverted as halfway through the film she regains the ability to walk thanks to surgery.
- Driven to Suicide:
- Full-Name Basis: Most characters refer to Stella as "Stella Maris".
- Heartwarming Orphan: Despite all that happens to her, Unity stays a sweetheart. Until she shoots Louise, that is, and even then she had good intentions.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Unity's Murder-Suicide is treated this way. She kills Louise so that she can't hurt Stella or John anymore.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Stella has a faithful pet dog that she loves. She's also partial to cute kittens.
- The Ingenue: The titular protagonist was crafted into one by her overprotective family. After gaining the usage of her legs, her perfect image of the world starts slowly breaking apart.
- Messy Hair: Alcoholic Louise has long, unkempt hair.
- One Head Taller: John is almost exactly a head taller than Stella.
- Parental Incest: John adopts Unity and becomes her guardian, though they don't develop much of a familial bond and she's more like a servant. Unity later falls for him.
- Precocious Crush: It's hard to tell their ages, but Unity can't be much older than 16 maximum. She has a crush on the older John.
- A Saint Named Mary: Stella's name is intended to be a reference to the Virgin Mary; an archaic title for Mary is "Stella Maris". The titular Stella is The Ingenue.
- Sibling Murder: Referenced. In a newspaper, Stella reads about a man who shot his brother.
- Spell My Name with an "S": John's surname is spelled "Riska" in a newspaper article, but the titles and other text all display it as "Risca".
- Stellar Name: Stella. On top of how obvious her first name is, her full name is another term for the Polaris star.