Starring Mary Pickford
December 1921

Mary Pickford's best picture, and one of the most beautiful things ever filmed. The children's classic story has become a classic of the screen, and it is entirely fitting that "Our Mary" should immortalize it. It is the sweetest, the most delightful of all her performances; she plays Dearest, the mother, and Cedric Errol, the Little Lord, in the greatest double exposure scenes every made. Cameraman Charles Rosher has done many wonderful things in his long career as Little Mary's photographer, but his is his most notable work. The film at first drags, but this is more than made up for in the later scenes which are dramatic and pathetic and charming and funny. We take issue with the self-appointed critics who write that Mary is not a good Little Lord; that she is always Mary Pickford, hardly a little boy. To our mind, she is perfect in the part. Her diminutive little velvet-clad figure, her swaggering walk, her boyish mannerisms all evidence her great art. Her Dearest is one of the screen's loveliest portraits. All the pathos and the beauty of motherhood are masterfully painted. The direction, by Alfred Green and Jack Pickford, is consistent, but we suspect that Mary, more than anyone else, is responsible for this picture. Claude Gillingwater gives the best performance of any actor's this year, as the grouchy, gouty Earl of Dorincourt, whom Cedric teaches to smile. His scenes with the star are touching, and she generously made him her co-star in them. Take the children - take the whole family!

Starring Mary Pickford
December 1921

The arrival of this super-Fairbanks production (referring to "The Three Musketeers") in New York caused a near riot at the Lyric Theater, as any reviewer who tried to get near the doors can testify. To get inside it was necessary to induce a friendly cop to pull you through the crowds, and there weren't enough cops to go round. This was half due to the picture and half to the fact that on the opening night, Douglas and Mary appeared "in the flesh," as we say in the movies. When this uproar had subsided, imagine the joy of fans when another occasion of equal excitement arose just next door. It was the arrival of Mary herself in a new film of her own - the screen version of "Little Lord Fauntleroy."

This childhood favorite has its own atmosphere as distinct as that of the Dumas picture, although, needless to say, it is not put on with quite so heavy a brush. Again the director was wise enough not to attempt any "modernization" or we might have had the Little Lord in the role of a brisk and slangy boy Scout. It is the atmosphere of New York in the eighteen-nineties, of horse cars, and Gody's "Ladies' Book," and of old England, with all its picturesque accessories. Through this Mary winds her captivating way in the double role of Cedric Errol, the infant peer, and Dearest, his mother.

The crowds adored her, regardless of the fact that never for a moment did she suggest a boy, or in fact anything but a pretty little girl in black velvet trousers. Perhaps this may be the secret of the film's success; the adoring fans go to see Mary herself and would resent any disguise. And in the amazingly clever bits of double exposure she is permitted to impersonate not only the role of the angelic Cedric, but that of his adoring mother, an excessively feminine picture. So the film is a one-character production - we have Mary in looped skirts and old lockets, looking gently maternal, and Mary, in the aforesaid black velvet boy's suit, romping with the St. Bernard, playing prince to the village children, and begging his stately grandfather to "lean on me." It gives the most Pickford for the money of any film since "Stella Maris."

And yet I can't help feeling that Mary is worthy of a more adult story in a production of this length and importance. After all, she has a many friends among grown-ups as among children. And the adult mind, while loyal to her charm,needs must resent some of the absurdities in this sentimental old tale by Frances Hodgson Burnett. "She wouldn't have treated a kid like that," whispered a scornful youth behind me in the theater when Cedric begs to have his curls cut off because the other fellows called him "sissy," and Dearest refuses with sobs which work on his childish sympathies. In the mother's character there is too much of the cloying smothering emotion which the author called "mother love," a tyranny which would subject a sensitive boy the the ridicule of "the gang" in order to indulge her own desire to keep him her baby. Of course the story, in many minds, is woven in with sentimental recollections of their own childhood, when they were thrilled by its romantic flavor. Also, it furnished Mary with curls again, and roles with curls attached are very rare these days.

starring Mary Pickford
December, 1921

This opus of Mrs. Hodgson Burnett's is the most obvious sort of Pollyanna fodder -- but the darn thing gets you.

Of course, you remember the sugary tale of Cedric Errol, who is summoned from New York to be the little Lord Fauntleroy in a lonely old English castle, of the way he wins the gruff, embittered old Earl of Dorincourt, of his love for his mother, affectionately termed Dearest, of the efforts of an unscrupulous woman to palm off her son as the real Lord Fauntleroy and of the ultimate happiness of everyone. Piffle, of course, and even piffle of the vintage of 1890.

But, as we remarked, the darn thing gets you. Mary Pickford plays both Cedric and Dearest with the aid of the finest and most dexterous trick camera work we have ever observed. Only in flashes does she get over the note of boyishness as the gallant little Cedric, yet we predict you will love her in this role and, moreover, believe in her Cedric while you are observing it. Yet Little Lord Fauntleroy is really playing Mary Pickford. We liked her Dearest even better, for it is prophetic of what the mature Mary Pickford may do, years hence. You will love her Dearest.

While we are complimenting Miss Pickford on her acting, let us compliment her upon her courage and far-sightedness in giving such wide opportunities to Claude Gillingwater, whose gouty, crotchety, cranky old Earl of Corincourt seems to have hobbled from between the covers of Mrs. Hodgson Burnett's romance. It is a superb cinema contribution -- a finely drawn portrait of a lonely old man's gradual transition before the tiny hands of youth and love.

Charles Rosher's camera work -- even aside from the remarkable double exposure stuff -- is splendid and well-nigh uncanny. There are close-ups of Mr. Gillingwater's Earl of Corincourt which have the texture of rare old steel engravings. The directorial credit is officially given to Alfred E. Green and Jack Pickford, but personally we hand it to Mary Pickford herself. We detect her discerning hand.

Certainly the Fairbanks family may well be proud of itself with "Little Lord Fauntleroy" and "The Three Musketeers" to its credit.

Fore more information, see "Little Lord Fauntleroy" as our Feature of the Month.

Return to reviews page