America’s Sweetheart

Tess of the Storm Country
R: Edwin S. Porter. B: Grace Miller White (novel), B.P. Schulberg. K: Edwin S. Porter. D: Mary Pickford, Harold Lockwood, Olive Carey. P: Famous Players Film Company / Adolph Zukor. USA 1914

“Despite widespread accolades and a box-office bonanza (the film was so successful that Pickford would later remake it), Tess of the Storm Country shows a director who had not fully adopted contemporary American techniques of storytelling. The camera always remains at a distance and fails to make effective use of Pickford’s enchanting and expressive face.
Tess of the Storm Country demonstrates the extent to which Porter and the film industry had moved away from a homosocial way of working and thinking. It was based on a novel by a woman (Grace Miller White), starred a woman, and appealed in large part to female spectators. This is obviously not the entire story (the scenario was by B. P. Schulberg, the direction Porter’s), but production companies had developed a heterosocial mode of work that was strongly inflected by the influx of personnel from the theater. Within the industry women asserted a powerful presence in the years immediately prior to gaining the vote. Adolph Zukor found Mary Pickford and her mother astute both financially and in the subtleties of building the actress’s career. ‘America’s Sweetheart’, moreover, was active behind the camera as well as in front of it. As the president of Famous Players later recalled: ‘Mary had her hand in everything, writing scripts, arguing with directors, making suggestions to other players. But everyone knew she did it for the benefit of the picture, and her ideas were helpful.’ Pickford had assumed such a role in the past —at Independent Motion Picture Company she wrote and starred in The Dream (1911), directed by Thomas Ince.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley/Los Angeles/Oxford 1991, p. 469

>>> Mary Pickford 1915: Cute!