Mary Pickford silent film festival


Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers and Mary Pickford in My Best Girl (1926), from

Encinitas, Cardiff CA is hosting a Mary Pickford silent film festival. The festival takes place in the La Paloma Theatre, 6-8 November. There are four features with four shorts, each accompanied by Robert Israel on the piano. Here’s the programme:

Friday, November 6, 7 pm

WILLFUL PEGGY | 1910. 17 minutes.
Short: Pickford plays a feisty peasant girl married off to a stuffy lord. On the eve of the ceremony, Peggy ditches her new spouse and runs off for a night of frivolity with an “inappropriate” group of revelers. Pickford was said to have declared Peggy her favorite character.

MY BEST GIRL | 1926. 80 minutes
Feature: Joe Merrill, son of a millionaire, poses as Joe Grant and takes a job in the stockroom of one of his father’s dime stores to prove he can succeed on his own. He meets poor stock room girl, Maggie Johnson, and they fall headfirst in love. Unfortunately, Joe’s mother has plans for Joe to marry a high society girl. Maggie, meanwhile, has family issues of her own to solve. Truly one of Pickford’s finest films and a fan favorite, MY BEST GIRL is a romantic comedy tested by the ages. It doesn’t hurt that Pickford and costar Buddy Rodgers fell in love in this film. Their on screen chemistry is astounding. The resulting marriage lasted forty years.

Saturday, November 7, 2 pm

TRICK THAT FAILED | 1909. 13 minutes
Short: In this rarely seen but much admired short, Pickford plays an aspiring artist with two beaus. She refuses to accept the affections of either until she succeeds in selling her art. The rich beau sends agents to buy up Pickford’s paintings, but she discovers the ruse and sends him packing. Pickford’s first husband, Owen Moore, appears in one of the scenes.

POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL | 1917. 80 minutes.
Feature: Considered the best of her “little girl films” Pickford was twent four when she played the part of eleven year Gwendolyn. Barely five feet tall herself, the illusion of her small stature was enhanced by large set pieces and a very tall cast. Gwendolyn’s family is rich, but her parents ignore her. Her governess tries repeatedly to reign in the free spirited child. When a family crisis sets off a series of wild events, all must rethink their priorities. Although remade more than once, Pickford’s version of the poor little rich girl easily sets the standard for excellence.

Saturday, November 7, 7 pm

THE NEW YORK HAT | 1909. 15 minutes
Short: Directed by D.W. Griffith, THE NEW YORK HAT features an all star cast that includes a young and handsome Lionel Barrymore, Pickford’s brother, Jack, and the beautiful Gish sisters. Pastor Barrymore buys the sad Pickford a New York hat at the bequest her dying mother. At the sight of the extravagant headpiece, the town gossips immediately circulate false rumors. Pickford’s harsh father then rips the hat to shreds before his daughter’s eyes. When the Pastor hears of the town’s cruelty, he chastises all. The short ends up with Barrymore proposing to Pickford.

THE LITTLE AMERICAN | 1917. 80 minutes
Feature: At the onset of World War I, Angela Moore finds herself with both a French and German suitor. She travels to Europe in pursuit of her German beau, only to have her passenger liner sunk by a u-boat. Following her rescue, she wanders to the family castle where Prussian bombs begin to fall. In short order, Angela converts her threatened family castle into an army hospital, enlists herself as nurse and spy – to aid her French boyfriend – then finds herself overrun with German soldiers intent on raping her and her female servants. She is rescued by her German beau who betrays his ranks and soon enough faces a firing squad with the accused Angela tightly encircled in his arms. An Allied bombing strafe intervenes. The end finds the love pair being shipped back to America. THE LITTLE AMERICAN proceeds at a dizzying pace; its scenes of war and mayhem to be copied by directors for decades to come. It’s no surprise Cecil B. DeMille of THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH and the TEN COMMANDMENTS fame directed this saga. Filmed less than ten years after the actual sinking of the Titanic, his depictions of a great passenger liner’s destruction are striking in their imagination and daring.

Sunday, November 8, 6 pm

THEY WOULD ELOPE | 1909. 17 minutes
Short: Harry and Bessie love each other with all their hearts. Thinking the bride’s father disapproves, the pair plan a poorly conceived elopement. All ends well in this madcap comedy, but not before mayhem and fate’s resistance give the lovebirds a good run for their money.

SPARROWS | 1926. 80 minutes.
Feature: This beautifully restored SPARROWS is shown in conjunction with the Library of Congress and will be introduced by the curator of the Pickford Collection, Christel Schmidt. It is a rare opportunity to view one of the greatest of silent films featuring one of its biggest stars. Produced at the end of Pickford’s silent film career, SPARROWS is considered by most to be her finest film. A departure from the typical sunny Mary Pickford story, SPARROWS is rife with Dickensian undertones. Evil Mr. Grimes keeps a rag tag group of orphans on his farm deep in the swamps. He forces the children to work, starves and mistreats them in numerous ways. They are watched over by the eldest, Molly. Things go awry when a gang in league with Grimes kidnaps a rich infant with the intent of ransoming her. When the police close in, Grimes panics and plans to throw the infant into the swamp. Molly has had enough and decides to lead the children out of the dangerous swamp to a better life.

The festival will be introduced by Hugh Munro Neely, director of Mary Pickford: A Life on Film. Further details, including directions and ticket information, are available from the Encinitas Theatre Consortium site.