The smokily erotic ambience of Josef Von Sternberg's silent Docks of New York is best appreciated on a big theatrical screen--but only if the available print is at the very least second-generation. George Bancroft plays a two-fisted ship's stoker on shore leave.
He saves Betty Compson from committing suicide; though the girl displays little gratitude, the inebriated Bancroft impulsively marries her. After he sobers up, Bancroft is prepared to set sail and leave his new wife waiting for him...perhaps forever.
The story is secondary to the virtuosity of the direction and camerawork (one scene is framed in the eye of a needle!) Considered by many to be Von Sternberg's greatest film, Docks of New York is a prime example of the silent cinema at its zenith.