Traffic in Souls (also released as While New York Sleeps) is a 1913 American silent crime drama film focusing on forced prostitution (white slavery) in the United States. Directed by George Loane Tucker and starring Jane Gail, Ethel Grandin, William H. Turner, and Matt Moore, Traffic in Souls is an early example of the narrative style in American films. The film consists of six reels which was longer than most American film of the era.
A copy of Traffic in Souls is preserved at the Library of Congress and the Film Preservation Associates. In 2006, the film was added to the National Film Registry for preservation in the Library of Congress because it "presaged the Hollywood narrative film" and drew attention through its riveting depiction of the methods used to entrap young women into prostitution.
The storyline concerns two young Swedish women immigrants who are approached by men soliciting for white slavery under the guise of a legitimate work offer. In the scenes filmed at Battery Park, after the women are transported there from Ellis Island, real immigrants can be seen in the background.
The entire film takes place over the course of three days and consists of a prologue; the main narrative in which one of the sisters is kidnapped by a pimp and the other sister and her boyfriend rush to rescue her in time and the pimp is killed; and an epilogue in which the viewer finds out the consequences from a trashed news article. The film concludes with a joke ending, an ending to a thriller that at the time was not the cliché it has become now.Jane Gail as Mary Barton
Ethel Grandin as Lorna Barton
William H. Taylor as Issac Barton, The Invalid Inventor - Mary's Father (credited as Wm. Turner)
Matt Moore as NYPD officer Larry Burke
Walter Long as other policeman (Uncredited)
William Welsh as William Trubus
Millie Liston as Mrs. Trubus (credited as Mrs. Hudson Lyston)
Irene Wallace as Alice Trubus
William Cavanaugh as Bill Bradshaw
Howard Crampton as the go-between
Arthur Hunter as the procurer
William Burbidge as Mr. Smith
Laura Huntley as the emigrant girl
William Powers as the emigrant girl’s brother
Jack Poulson as R.C. Cadet
Edward Boring as Swedish Cadet
Traffic in Souls was based on a story by the film's director George Loane Tucker. The scenario was written by Walter MacNamara who also served as producer with Jack Cohn. Executive producers include King Baggot, Herbert Brenon, William Robert Daly, and Carl Laemmle.
The film was shot and produced by Universal Film Manufacturing Company in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where many early film studios in America's first motion picture industry were based at the beginning of the 20th century. Additional footage was shot on location at Ellis Island and Manhattan. Its subjects were working women who had immigrated to the United States, and it was released at a time when the country was undergoing a "moral panic" over the issue of prostitution. The film's release eventually resulted in the adding of "white slavery" to the list of topics banned under the Hays Code.
Traffic in Souls opened on November 24, 1913 at Lou Fields's Theatre at 1215 Broadway in New York City. The film was made for $5700, and reportedly earned $400,000 during its theatrical run, helping to make Universal a major player among movie studios.
Traffic in Souls was released on VHS by Kino International in with a piano score by Philip Carli in 1994. Flicker Alley released the film, along with The Italian (1915) and three shorts, as part of a two DVD set entitled Perils of the New Land in August 2008. Film historian Shelley Stamp provided expert audio commentary for the 2008 release.