The Little American (1917) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A young American has her ship torpedoed by a German U-boat but makes it back to ancestral home in France, where she witnesses German brutality firsthand.

  • German-American Karl and French-American Jules are in love with Angela when each returns to his country as war breaks out. She sails for France and while there is nearly raped by Karl as the Germans invade. She is later arrested for sending secret messages to Jules but Karl defends her. Both are saved from execution by the arrival of the French forces and Count Jules

  • At the outbreak of World War I, Angela Moore, a young American heiress bids farewell to two male admirers, Karl Van Austriem, a German-American, and Count Jules de Destin, a French aristocrat, as they both return to Europe to fight for their respective homelands. Traveling to visit her ancestral estate in France, Angela's luxury ocean liner is sunk by a German U-boat that erroneously believes it to be carrying munitions. Despite the horrific loss of life, she is rescued and ultimately arrives at the family chateau. Because her aunt has died, she inherits the estate, which is commandeered by the Germans as a command post and billet for soldiers. Outraged at the brutal violation of female servants by the barbaric soldiers and the summary execution of a benign old man, she urges Karl, who is among the officers, to put a stop to these war atrocities. When his strict Prussian training trumps his humanity, Angela renounces her neutrality and uses her position in the house to transmit intelligence about the position of the German guns to Jules and the French artillery.

  • Angela More's birthday is the Fourth of July. Count Jules De Destin, an attaché of the French embassy, appears with a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers, but Angela's interest is centered in Karl Von Austreim, a German-American. Karl, to please his father, has been educated in Germany, and received his military training in the German army. Jules is about to propose, when the butler announces Karl. He has a box of candy to which is fastened a silk American flag, and the candy is arranged in the same design. Jules realizes he has lost, and after he has retired Karl proposes. He has just been accepted when he is summoned to meet a man who insists upon seeing him. The stranger tells him to report in Germany at once. Karl, unable to explain, asks Angela to wait for him. One day Jules tells her France and Germany are at war, and Angela is horrified, but relieved at her understanding of Karl's departure. Angela has an aunt in France in the town of Vangy. The aunt lost her grandson in battle, and writes Angela's father asking that she be sent to bring her and her family back to America. Angela writes to Karl, and departs on one of the largest ocean liners. The captain receives word that they are nearing the submarine zone, and orders everything darkened. A German spy leaves two portholes open; the lights are seen by the commander of a submarine, who fires. The boat slowly fills and lists. The ball room is flooded. Angela finally reaches the deck. She gives her life preserver to an older woman and jumps into the water. Coming to the surface she sees an empty raft and pulls herself on board. The next morning she is picked up by a patrol boat. Karl receives the letter, and is making merry in a captured French home when they receive the news of the torpedoing of the Veritania. Karl is horror stricken. The captain commands that they drink to the commander of the submarine. Angela's aunt passes away a short time before Angela arrives. The French commander warns that the Germans are approaching, and Angela and her women servants are preparing to depart when the French bring their wounded into the chateau. Angela refuses to leave. Her servants remain with her. Jules arranges with a spy to have a telephone hidden in the chateau. He encounters Angela, who is heartbroken to find he has lost his right arm in battle. He explains she can do a great service if she will permit the spy to serve as butler. Angela consents. She does her best to look after the French wounded, and entertains them. Soon the Germans come. They fire into the dwelling, killing the spy, and batter down the door. Angela protests that the chateau is the residence of American citizens, and shows her flag. Realizing her beauty, several of the officers start for her, and she flees. Angela dashes into a darkened room, Karl follows. Believing Angela has been drowned Karl forgets his manliness and is about to force a kiss, when his elbow hits the electric switch and the sweethearts stand face to face. Angela is horrified, Karl humiliated. He explains he believed her dead; she demands that he protect her women servants. Karl explains that he cannot give orders to his superiors. The commanding officer arrives, makes her remove and dry his muddy boots. Karl secures a pass for Angela, but she sees a line of peasants fall before a firing squad, and tears up her pass, announcing that she will remain. She creeps to the fire place and telephones Jules where the German guns are placed. The French wreck one of the big Howitzers. The second shot hits close to another, and the colonel realizes someone is telephoning the range. Karl finds the wire outlet, and discovers Angela. He urges her to flee. The colonel is knocking at the door, Angela realizes if Karl lets her go, he will be shot, so she pulls down her hair and pretends to struggle. The men believe Karl has captured her and he is congratulated. By a court martial Angela is ordered shot because she refuses to reply to the German third degree. Karl revolts. He flings his sword at the feet of the Colonel and says, "I am done with you and your Emperor. I was blind to your system. Now, thank God, I see!" The Colonel orders the woman shot as a spy and the man for treason. Jules has heard Angela scream, orders all guns concentrated on the chateau. Karl and Angela are led before the firing squad. Just as they are about to fire, an avalanche of French shells descends. Karl and Angela are buried in the debris, and chateau is in flames. Finally they crawl forth and Angela, leads Karl through the shells of No Man's Land. Unable to make the distance, they conceal themselves in a church. The two collapse at the foot of a cross as a shell wrecks the building. Next morning, Jules sees two figures at the foot of the cross and discovers them to be Angela and the German-American. Angela pleads for Karl and he is put in a concentration camp. Jules sets about to acquaint the government of Angela's heroism, and one day she is presented with an official document granting Karl's release and transport to America, and the other prisoners are horrified to see a fashionably dressed little American pressing her face against the wires of the detention pen to be kissed by the disheveled German prisoner.


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