Rags & Riches Collection: The Films of Mary Pickford
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Mary Pickford is known today as the first film actress to achieve international super stardom. Funny, feisty, and diminutive, she was also the first actor to have complete artistic control of her films. And because Pickford chose to work with the best directors, writers, craftsmen and editors, what incredible films they are. These three titles (THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL, THE HOODLUM, and SPARROWS), newly remastered with full orchestral scores, demonstrate the star's commitment to excellence and the brilliant range of her acting. The RAGS & RICHES COLLECTION marks the first-ever release designed to introduce younger viewers to the pleasures of silent films. Each film includes a short intro featuring a group of kids who discover a treasure trove of old films in an attic and learn a lot about film history in the process. Each silent feature also has a separate audio track with spoken intertitles and explanations to help them enjoy the experience even more!!
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The major virtue of this set is that we get to see Mary at 3 stages in the history of her little girl character. THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL (1917) the film that started it all, THE HOODLUM (1919) in which she exercised complete creative control and was at the height of her popularity and finally SPARROWS (1926), the last time she would play the character. THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL and THE HOODLUM are making their home video debuts. SPARROWS has been refurbished with a new orchestral score replacing the old Gaylord Carter organ score on the previous DVD. If you've never seen a Mary Pickford feature before than this is a good place to start but it certainly doesn't represent a complete picture of Pickford. Check out STELLA MARIS and THE LOVE LIGHT to see what she could do with adult roles.
THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL was originally a play and was more serious in tone than this picture makes it. Pickford and director Maurice Tourneur clashed over adding the humorous bits and when first screened for the Paramount brass, they hated it. They quickly changed their tune when audiences embraced it and Pickford was on her way to becoming a cinematic icon. THE HOODLUM, made 2 years later, is a lavish production and deals with some social concerns but it feels much more calculated to giving the audience what they want. Director Sidney Franklin who would later win an Oscar for THE GOOD EARTH, stayed out of Pickford's way here. SPARROWS (1926) is more Dickensian than Dickens himself and is a truly remarkable achievement. Director William Beaudine would go on to Hollywood's Poverty Row studios before ending his career directing episodes of the LASSIE TV shows in the 1950s and 60s. Rounding out the set is the 1910 Biograph short RAMONA.
All 3 movies look as good as can be expected short of a full scale restoration and this set includes a number of special features designed to make it kid friendly. The reading of the subtitles is OK (but it's better if a family member does it) but the filmed introductions and epilogues seemed forced and artificial. Each movie has a new orchestral score. GIRL and SPARROWS are appropriate and effective but I found THE HOODLUM to be borderline cute and annoying. In the end it's all a matter of personal taste. Thanks to everyone involved from The Mary Pickford Foundation to Milestones Films for making this Blu-Ray available. Now it's time to give the adult Mary Pickford her due.
This set is out-of-print and so difficult to find affordable Blu-ray discs but the DVD set is just fine except the second disc in my set skips about ten minutes from one of the features. Over all I would say that this is the best Mary Pickford offering to date offered on DVD.
I wrote to Milestone and they responded by telling me that the authoring was done to accomodate the needless "kid friendly" introductions. This makes little sense, as every other classic movie release is formatted such that the display quickly changes from widescreen for the FBI warning and/or menu, to a correctly formatted movie. There is no reason they couldn't have done that here.
Given that Milestone simultaneously released their Charley Chase collection formatted correctly, I can't understand why they put this Mary Pickford collection onto the market with this major error.
This is no reflection on the films themselves.....just on Milestone's release of the films. Also, this comment applies to the DVD ONLY! I do not have, and cannot comment on the Blu-Ray release of this collection.
As much as I hated to have to do so, I sent this one back for a refund. Maybe someday some studio will release these films correctly. I'll try again then.