Mary Pickford used to eat roses

Of all the subjects that might have been chosen as the theme for a contemporary popular song, the formation of the United Artists film company must come as one of the least expected. But such is the theme of ‘Mary Pickford’, the new single by Katie Melua. I shall not pass judgement on its musical or lyrical merits – simply to say that it is written by Mike Batt, and tell us in simple words that Mary Pickford, her husband Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith got together to form the United Artists Corporation, which indeed they did in 1919. It was the first film company to be formed by film artists, rather than businessmen, and was of course intended to produce and distribute the films of the quartet (as well as others) and retain power and profits for themselves. Famously, Richard A. Rowland of Metro Pictures Corporation, on hearing the news, pronounced that “the lunatics have taken over the asylum”.

The video is constructed as a silent film, and features numerous clips, including newsreel footage of the four founders, The Gaucho, The Black Pirate, The Taming of the Shrew, and even Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest, Griffith’s undistinguished 1907 film acting debut. Chaplin film clips are noticeable by their absence. The video features faux silent titles, including (a nice touch) “Guitar solo”.

Cue an upsurge of interest in Mary Pickford, no doubt. Apparently Pickford did indeed use to eat roses (presumably just the petals) to make herself look more beautiful, as the song tells us. Cue an upsurge in visits to garden centres…


Yogoto No Nume

Yogoto No Nume (1933), from

StummFilmMusikTage, the German silent film festival which makes a special feature of the musical accompaniments, takes place in the Markgrafentheater, Erlangen, 24-27 January 2008. The festival site is in German and English, but the latter does not have the programme details as yet. So here are the details of the films being shown:

Thursday 24 January

Yogoto No Yume (Every Night Dreams) (Japan 1933, d. Mikio Naruse)
Music and performance: Yogo Pausch

Friday 25 January

Potomok Chingis Khana (Storm over Asia) (USSR 1925, d. Vsevolod Pudovkin)
Music: Bernd Schultheis, performed by the Ensemble Kontraste, conductor Frank Strobel

Nani ga kanojo o sô saseta ka (What Made Her Do It?) (Japan 1930, d. Shigeyoshi Suzuki)
Music: Günter Buchwald, performed by the Erlanger Musikinstitut

Saturday 26 January

Kongen af Pelikanien (Pat and Patachon in Pelikanien) (Denmark 1928, d. Lau Lauritzen)
Music and performance: Yogo Pausch

Tabu (USA 1925, d. F.W. Murnau)
Music: Violeta Dinescu, performed by the Ensemble Kontraste, conductor Frank Strobel

Chang (USA 1927, d. Merian C. Cooper)
Music and performance: Günter Buchwald & Ensemble

Sunday 27 January

The Light of Asia (India/Germany 1925, d. Franz Osten)
Music and performance: Om Prakash Pandey (Tabla), Henning Kirmse (Sitar)

The Cameraman (USA 1925, d. Buster Keaton)
Music and performance: Karsten Gnettner, Helmut Nieberle, Bob Rückert

Piccadilly (GB 1928, d. E.A. Dupont)
Music: Frieder Egri, Roman Rothen, performed by Frieder Egri & Ensemble

A strong line-up indeed, and there are introductory presentations to several of the screenings as well. The Markgrafentheater is an attraction in itself, Germany’s oldest Baroque theatre still in use. It was built in 1719, and provides a stunning setting for the annual silent film festival. Advance booking starts on 15 December (details on both English and German versions of the site).

Update: A revised programme has now been published (January 2008). See this updated post for details.