Mary Pickford 1915: Cute!

R: James Kirkwood. B: Frances Marion, Mary Pickford, based on the 1915 novel by Edith Barnard Delano. K: Emmett A. Williams. D: Mary Pickford, Marshall Neilan, Joseph Manning, J. Farrell MacDonald, Hugh Thompson. P/Distr.: Famous Players Film Company/Paramount Pictures. USA 1915
Print: Library of Congress

“Some sources claim that Pickford was the inspiration for Delano’s novel; whether or not this is true, the role of a fiery mining-town girl suited the actress perfectly and was a box-office smash.”
Mary Pickford Foundation

“In writing the scenario for Rags it is evident that Edith Barnard Delano had the most likable traits of Mary Pickford’s personality in mind and aimed to produce a story in which they might be revealed in all their variety. (…) From beginning to end it is a picture of the winsome little star in a career humorous and pathetic by turns and occasionally dramatic.”
The Moving Picture World (Aug. 14, 1915)

“What made her so popular? What exactly was the appeal of Mary Pickford and of her films? In attempting to answer these questions, it cannot escape notice that from the beginning of Pickford’s film career, the actress’s characters often are ambiguously inscribed with characteristics of both child and adult woman, as a ‘child-woman’. (…) even when she ostensibly is cast as an adult, the grown-up Mary Pickford registers as an adolescent girl or a ‘child-woman’, ambiguously poised between childhood and womanhood. As her career moved into the feature-film era, her screen persona grew even younger, until she was, for all intents and purposes, a child impersonator.

In 1914 an industry trade magaz ine,The Bioscope’, published a review of the Pickford star vehicle Tess of the Storm Country  (dir. Edwin S.Porter) that articulates one view of the actress’s youthful appeal: ‘There are many young comediennes . . . but it is only Mary Pickford . . . who can create through the silent medium . . . just that particular kind of sentiment ineffably sweet, joyously young, and sometimes, if one may put it so, almost unbearably heartbreaking in its tender pathos which has become identified with her name, and with which we are all familiar.’ In Tess (as well as in its 1922 remake) Pickford was cast as an adolescent hoyden living in poverty. Many of the actress’s other star vehicles, including Rags (dir. James Kirkwood, 1915) and M’Liss (dir. Marshall Neilan, 1918), followed the same formula, placing the girl in a small town or the country. A Variety reviewer of Rags thought that the basis of Pickford’s popular appeal was already rather obvious: “she and her bag of tricks are so well established . . . [that] no matter what she does in a picture they [film followers] are sure to term it ‘cute,’ and in the current offering are many scenes that call for that expression.’”
Gaylyn Studlar: Oh, “Doll Divine”: Mary Pickford, Masquerade, and the Pedophilic Gaze. In: Camera Obscura 48 (Volume 16, Number 3). Duke University Press 2001

“Rags and Tess of the Storm Country (1922) are among Pickford’s most successful features. In both movies, the actress plays the kind of role her audiences loved – the impoverished but feisty heroine. Luckily, Pickford loved to play such roles, creating a gallery of willful and fiery girls from the lower classes in Fanchon the Cricket (1915), The Eternal Grind (1916), and M’liss (1918) to name only a few. Pickford loved the role of Tessibel Skinner (her most physically and verbally aggressive role) so much that she portrayed her in two versions (1914 and 1922) of Tess of the Storm Country. Her character in Rags (1915) is written and performed in the same vein. Both roles were key in defining Pickford’s screen persona. For this reason alone, these films deserve a full and careful restoration. Tess of the Storm Country (both 1914 and 1922) and Rags were copied at the U.S.D.A film lab prior to the liquidation of the LC’s motion picture department in the summer 1947. They are in decent physical condition and have good visual quality.

Unfortunately, the original size and scope of the 35mm material is lost because LC chose to copy onto 16mm stock. Without substantial 35mm footage, the 16mm is the best material left. Copied nearly a decade before GEH’s positive, the LC 16mm is most likely the better of the two prints made from Pickford’s nitrate elements. (…) In 1965, the Cinematheque in Paris received a 35mm print of Rags on sound stock. The film, already suffering from decomposition in 1947, is probably incomplete. Regardless of the condition or completeness of safety material in France, the LC needs to preserve its two 35mm tinted nitrate reels as soon as possible. The government archive’s 16mm archival positive was copied a decade before GEH’s 16mm print (in 1956) and almost 20 years before the Cinematheque’s 35mm. The best of the extant material is at LC. It would be tragic to lose the remaining two reels of nitrate before the preservation/restoration of Rags is completed.”
Library of Congress Report

Fanchon the Cricket
R: James Kirkwood. B: James Kirkwood, Frances Marion, based on the 1849 novel  ‘La Petite Fadette’ by George Sand. K: Edward Wynard. D: Mary Pickford, Jack Standing, Lottie Pickford, Gertrude Norman, Russell Bassett, Richard Lee, Jack Pickford. P/Distr.: Famous Players Film Company/Paramount Pictures. USA 1915

“The charm of the cricket has made its appeal to the poets from the days of Anacreon, but there was never a sweeter cricket than Fanchon and let me hasten to add there never was a Fanchon like Mary Pickford.”
The Moving Picture World  (May 22, 1915)

>>> America’s Sweetheart on this website
>>> Mary Pickford’s Cinderella on this website
>>> Griffith and Pickford (1)
>>> Griffith and Pickford (2)