“Outside the Law” is a silent film released in 1921, directed by Tod Browning, and starring Priscilla Dean, Lon Chaney, and Wheeler Oakman. The film tells the story of a gangster named “Black” Mike Sylva (played by Oakman) and his efforts to recruit a young thief named “Fingers” (played by Dean) to join his criminal organization.
Fingers’ father was a notorious criminal who was killed in a shootout with the police, and she has been raised by her uncle, who is also a thief. When her uncle is caught and sent to prison, Fingers is left alone and vulnerable. Black Mike sees her potential as a skilled pickpocket and offers her a job, but Fingers is initially hesitant to join his gang.
Meanwhile, a police detective named “Silent” Madden (played by Chaney) is hot on Black Mike’s trail and becomes suspicious of Fingers’ involvement with the gang. He befriends her and tries to convince her to help him catch Black Mike and his associates.
As Fingers becomes more involved with the gang, she begins to develop feelings for Black Mike’s right-hand man, “Dapper” Bill Ballard (played by Ralph Lewis). When she discovers that Black Mike plans to double-cross and kill Bill, she decides to help Silent Madden and the police take down the gang.
The film climaxes with a thrilling chase and shootout between the police and the gang, with Fingers and Bill caught in the middle. In the end, justice is served, and Fingers is given a second chance at life, thanks to Silent Madden’s compassion and understanding.
“Outside the Law” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, cementing Lon Chaney’s reputation as a master of character acting and Tod Browning’s status as a skilled director of crime dramas.
Gardner Bradford, Tod Browning, Lucien Hubbard
Priscilla Dean, Wheeler Oakman, Lon Chaney