Monday, February 11, 2013

Phil attends MARY PICKFORD SHORT FILM NIGHT at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-February 2, 2013

Mary Pickford (1892-1979)
It's been far to long since I've visited my friends over at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. located in the quaint Niles District in Fremont. However, Saturday's screening was a very special one. The museum was having a MARY PICKFORD SHORT FILM PROGRAM, and all the shorts were 35mm prints from the Library of Congress. Another cool bonus was that Christel Schmidt was on hand to talk about the short films and to autograph her new book Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies. After having dinner at my favorite Niles eatery Broncho Billy Pizza Palace, I made my way over to the museum to spend the night with America's Sweetheart.

After saying hi to all my friends at the museum, the night began with Christel welcoming the sold out crowd to the show! She informed the audience that they would be seeing a total of seven shorts with her talking about the films as well as about Mary Pickford's career.

SWEET AND TWENTY (1909): Mary stars as Alice, who jumps to the wrong conclusion when she sees her boyfriend Frank (Billy Quirk) kissing her sister (Florence Lawrence). Upset about losing Alice, he tells her he's going to drown himself, but Alice runs off and stops him and they kiss and make up. It's a cute little film, with Mary showing signs of greatness. The film was directed buy the legendary D.W. Griffith for the Biograph Company and released on July 22, 1909.

THEY WOULD ELOPE (1909): Another D.W. Griffith short film, Mary stars as Bessie. She and her boyfriend Harry (Billy Quirk once again) elope without the consent of her father (James Kirkwood). However, her father tricked them into running off, and after a series of hilarious missteps, the "happy couple" return home to have the father celebrating their marriage. Also making a cameo in the film is none other than Mack Sennett, the future Keystone Films ringmaster. Mary started off making a series of romantic comedies before becoming a dramatic actress. The Biograph Company released the film to theaters on August 9, 1909.

TRICK THAT FAILED (1909): Mary is Nellie Burt, a struggling artist whose paintings nobody wants to purchase. She tells her boyfriend Billy Hart (Arthur V. Johnson) that she can't marry until she sells her paintings. Seizing a brilliant idea, Billy asks his friend Hans Kessler (Anthony O'Sullivan) to buy them. However she soon learns the truth, and then accepts the proposal of a rival painter. Another great comedic performance by Pickford! Directed by  D.W. Griffith, Biograph released the film on November 29, 1909.

After a brief intermission, the show continued with:

Cover of Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies
THE SIMPLE CHARITY (1910): Starring Mary Pickford, W. Chrystie Miller, Kate Bruce, Edwin August, the film was directed by D.W. Griffith for the Biograph Company and released on November 10, 1910.

THE DREAM (1911): A  drunken lush husband enjoys a night out on the town and neglects his loving wife at home. When he finally comes home after an all-nighter, he mistreats her and totally disregards her love and affection. When he falls asleep, he dreams that his wife is the scandalous one and he's waiting for her at home. When he wakes up, he's a new man and loves his wife again. This was one of the first films that Mary starred in for her new employer Independent Moving Pictures (or IMP for short) and was directed by Thomas H. Ince. The film was released on January 23, 1911.

SWEET MEMORIES (1911): Polly Biblett (Pickford) is an elderly woman who looks back on her life; all the special events that happened to her as well as her dead husband. She shares these fond memories with her children and grandchildren. A sweet, touching short tha features the Pickford clan:  mother Charlotte Smith Pickford, daughter Mary Pickford, daughter Lottie Pickford, son Jack Pickford, and son-in-law Owen Moore. The film was directed by Thomas H. Ince (in 1915 he joined D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett to form the Triangle Motion Picture Company) and was released to theaters on March 27, 1911.

THE INFORMER (1912): The year 1912 marked her return to Biograph and once again making movies with D.W. Griffith. In this film Mary portrays the sweetheart of a Confederate Captain (Walter Miller), who after she's been informed that he was killed, is alive and being hunted by those damn Yankees. Soon she and her slaves are shooting at the Yankees while help is on the way. Fun fact: the child actor in the black face paint is Mary's younger brother Jack Pickford. This was a precursor to Griffith's 1915 film epic THE BIRTH OF A NATION. The film was released on November 12, 1912.

THE NEW YORK HAT (1912): Preacher Bolton (Lionel Barrymore) receives a letter from the deceased Mrs. Harding, who requests him to administer a small trust for her lovely daughter (Pickford) so she can enjoy some of the finer things in life that her father (Charles Hill Mailes) has always denied her. The pastor uses some of the trust to buy Mary a brand new hat (a New York hat) that she saw the other day. However, a group of gossip girls (not like the young girls on that TV show. These are old and prudish!) starts up the gossiping which puts Mary and the pastor at risk. This was Mary's last film for Biograph. The film was released to theaters on December 5, 1912.

And there you have it folks! An amazing night with Mary Pickford!! I got to see some really rare films, saw all my friends again, and had Christel Schmidt sign my copy of her book!! Remember the museum is open for tours every weekend from 12pm-4pm and every Saturday night there's a silent film show starting at 7:30 (doors open at 7pm). So if you would like to learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, becoming a member, and to view their film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.