Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)

To watch Mary Pickford is to be instantly taken by her.  You enter a world where it is perfectly feasible for a 24-year-old to play a child, and what's more -- she's more charmingly childlike than the actual children in the film.

In one of her best-loved roles, Pickford plays Gwendolyn, the girl with everything anyone could ever want...except love and companionship.  She longingly gazes at the children playing outside and struggles for the attentions of her Wall Street father and social butterfly mother.  Gwen gets herself in more than one scrape, but always her cheery innocence saves her from real trouble.  When difficulties befall the family - and a desperate situation threatens Gwen - will they be able to pull together and learn to treasure what really matters?

It's a Pickford picture, so you can probaby guess the answer.

The film never tries to be anything but a sweet little melodrama, and this honesty of approach seems almost fresh through the veil of ninety years.  Sure, it's treacly ("why do my to-morrows never come?") but due to its simplicity, it works

Amazingly, this was my first time watching Mary in her prime; previously I'd only seen her in Coquette (not the best way to start).  I now can see why she was America's Sweetheart.  Her eyes, her smile, every move of her hand is magic.  Like Clara Bow, she commands the screen, but in a gentle, less kinetic way (even through some very cute foot-stomping tantrums).  I am very much looking forward to the rest of her early work.

I give this one: 

Chris Edwards of the sublime Silent Volume reviewed this, too.  Read it here.


Mythical Monkey said...

I'm a big fan of The Poor Little Rich Girl. With any luck I'll write about it sometime this summer. Another good one to track down is Stella Maris from 1918 -- Mary Pickford in a dual role, and probably the best work of her career.

Good post!

Avalon76 said...

I can't wait to see your thoughts on it! I know it sounds cliche, but I really did fall in love with her. ^_^

Margaret Benbow said...

Yes, she was such a skilled actress.You really do her justice. For me, she was at her best in SPARROWS---where she's a caregiver for orphans, and becomes a feisty little warrior in defending them. There are some scenes so hair-raising (chases in the swamp, with alligators!) and others so moving it takes awhile to recover after watching it!

Chris Edwards said...

Sparrows is her best film, but I vote for My Best Girl as her best performance. Track down The Dream (a Biograph short) for something different.

We're lucky here in Toronto--the Lightbox is hosting an exhibit of Pickford memorabilia (including one of her dresses) until June. They have a lot of posters too, some for films that never get screened, like Madame Butterfly (she played the Chinese lead) and Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall, an overblown costume drama experiment from the mid-1920s. I'd love to find those on video.

Avalon76 said...

Come to think of it, I did see My Best Girl. Very sweet little film! I taped Sparrows, so that one will be up here next. ^_^