03 October 2013

Pickford Found

It’s believed that ninety percent of all silent films are lost, a fact that breaks my heart to think about. So you can imagine how elated this silent film fan was to hear of the discovery of a missing Mary Pickford film.

Their First Misunderstanding, a ten-minute film produced by Carl Laemmle’s Independent Moving Picture Company (IMP) in 1911 and starring Mary Pickford, was found seven years ago in a barn in Nelson, New Hampshire. Contractor Peter Massie, who had been hired to tear down the barn, made the discovery— seven reels of nitrate film in total along with an old projector. He turned the items over to film professor Larry Benaquist at Keene State College who helped get the film identified.

Just 18 at the time she wrote and starred in the short comedy, Pickford along with her then husband, Owen Moore, play a married couple who have their first argument. Thomas Ince, the films director, and Ben Turpin also have minor roles. Pickford, who had already made more than 100 shorts by this point, runs through a gamut of emotions in one scene, which you can watch here.

Not only was this Pickford's first film for IMP (she had been with Biograph previously) but it also marked the first time that Pickford received screen billing (most studio heads thought that acknowledging the actors would cause them to demand higher salaries; they weren't wrong). Prior to this film Pickford was known as the “girl with the curls.” Mary Pickford would go to become a huge star and for a while, the most famous person in the world.

The film’s restoration was funded by the Library of Congress, which houses not only the largest collection of Pickford films but her personal collection as well. On October 11, the film will see its second “premiere” at a special screening at Keene State College. For more information about the event, visit here.

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