D.W. Griffith's last silent film, The Lady of the Pavements was based on La Paiva, a story by Karl Gustav Vollmoeller. Set in 19th-century Paris, the story concerns the romantic travails of Prussian aristocrat Count Karl von Arnim (played by future Hopalong Cassidy star William Boyd).
Feeling betrayed by his flirtatious fiancee, Countess Diane des Granges (Jetta Goudal), Karl misanthropically declares that he'd sooner marry a lady of the pavements (Hollywoodese for prostitute).
Hoping to demonstrate to Karl that appearances are deceiving, Diane engages the services of low-born Spanish cabaret entertainer Nanon del Rayon (Lupe Velez), dressing the girl in gorgeous gowns and passing her off as a noblewoman.
Karl is smitten by Nanon and proposes marriage, but during their wedding reception Diane spitefully reveals Nanon's true identity as proof that Karl wouldn't know a Girl of the Streets if he actually met one. By this time, however, Karl has genuinely fallen in love with Nanon, whereupon Diane's nasty scheme blows up in her face.
For a director who was considered a relic and a has-been, D.W. Griffith invests Lady of the Pavements with all sorts of cinematic nuances, including a remarkable multiple-exposure sequence in which William Boyd appears on screen in 13 different guises at once!
Completed as a silent, the film was slightly reshot to qualify as a part-talkie, including two musical numbers and a dialogue sequence in which Griffith experimented with sound modulation -- another important (and frequently unheralded) innovation from the Father of American Film.