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London's Limehouse district is home to many desperate souls struggling to survive, including brothers Spike and Billy McFadden, who work at the local music hall. Like two sides of a coin, Spike is a coarse buffoon blessed with a marvelous singing voice, while Billy is a sensitive poet who composes great songs, but lacks the voice to sing them. They are both infatuated with dancer Gyspy Fair, whose beauty keeps audiences riveted to their seats. She is also coveted by the sinister Swan Way, the majordomo of a Chinatown gambling den. After rejecting his advances, Gyspy tells the police about the gangster's den of ill repute. Seeking revenge for exposing his criminal operations, Swan Way sends one of his thugs to murder Gypsy. Timid Billy breaks character and leaps to the girl's defense, accidentally killing the assailant. Spike takes the fall for Billy's crime and finds himself on trial for murder. Though it may cost him his life, Billy knows he cannot be silent and let his brother go to the gallows in his stead...
In 1919, D.W. Griffith released his masterpiece Broken Blossoms, a massive critical and commercial triumph, equivalent to today's blockbusters. Griffith modestly felt that much of the film's success was due to its source material, a short story by Thomas Burke. The British author was best known for his book Limehouse Nights (1916) a collection of stories about the impoverished Limehouse section of London, many of which focused on the Chinese immigrant population. So it wasn't a surprise when the director returned to Burke for his 1921 film Dream Street, combining the stories "Gina of Chinatown" and "Song of the Lamp" into one narrative. Star Carol Dempster made a total of 16 movies with the famed filmmaker, but never caught on with audiences like other female Griffith protégés such as Mae Marsh, Bessie Love, and the Gish sisters. A prop boy who had made only one prior onscreen appearance, Charles Emmett Mack was given the leading role of Billy after Griffith noticed a vulnerable quality about him perfect for the character. Tyrone Power Sr., playing a street preacher, is the father of the famed leading man best known for The Mark of Zorro (1940), The Black Swan (1942), and many others. In its initial release, Dream Street began with an introduction by Griffith in a talking sequence that astonishingly predated The Jazz Singer (1927) by six years. Sadly, this priceless footage is considered lost today.
Released by Alpha Home Entertainment/Gotham. See more credits.