starring Mary Pickford
February, 1923

Mrs. Douglas, or, as the saying goes, Mary Pickford, also has her picture this month, and I wish I could say the same for her. But the plain unguarded truth is that while Douglas has gone a step in advance of the old picture times, Mary has gone back to the old, old days of motion picture hokum. "Tess of the Storm Country" was filmed years ago when the nickelodeon was flourishing and when Will Hays was a mere local politician. It has been refilmed with more finished direction and better photography, but it still remains the preposterous sob tale about the squatter's daughter whose morals are perfect, but whose grammar could be improved upon and whose idea of humor is kicking folks in the shins.

Of course Mary Pickford enters into this role with such characteristic earnestness and vim that those who adore Mary in everything will find her all over the place to adore. Moreover her energy and good nature take the curse off many of the worst scenes - she sweeps by them so joyously.

And though I do not personally care for that type of story, I must admit that many, many people do. Countless thousands of persons read the book and as many more persons wept and laughed at the play - not on Broadway - but in theaters throughout the country where plays are presented by small road and stock companies.

After "Lord Fauntleroy" I did hope that Mary would find a role more worthy of her - and here this one is worse! But perhaps for reasons best known to herself, she was merely marking time in making this picture while getting ready to begin "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall," which she is to do next, and which, according to announcement, Lubitsch is to direct.

starring Mary Pickford
February, 1923

Today the vogue for realism dominates all things; and not the least of these is acting. Yet there are still a goodly number among the Great and the Demi-Great who hold briefs for idealistic portrayals. There seems to be a question as to whether or not idealized characterizations, which sacrifice realistic truths, can be really great.

It was Mary Pickford's interpretation of the title role in "Tess of the Storm Country" that led to this train of thought. It is highly idealized. Heretofore, Miss Pickford has inclined toward portrayals more realistic than her Tessibel Skinner. We remember, in particular, her Unity Blake in "Stella Maris" - pitiful little Unity with her straggly hair, her twisted smile and her wistful eyes, the only prophecy of Unity's shining soul in her ugly face. And we remember her in "Suds," too.

As Tess, Miss Pickford is a child of the squalid squatters who live along the shore in their makeshift quarters. The other squatters were quite unkempt, frowzy and generally unpleasant enough to suit the most rabid realist. But Tess, supposed to be the dirtiest of them all, did not suggest what the titles were so careful to describe her to be.

However, unless this is borne in upon you immediately, you are not apt to take notice of it, because before the picture is far unreeled you will be a willing captive to the art of Mary Pickford. And after a reel or two, Tess is supposed to be somewhat cleaned up, anyway.

Some years ago Miss Pickford made "Tess of the Storm Country," and it was because she believes it to be one of her greatest roles that she has made the story over again.

It is the sort of story which motion pictures have always claimed as their special province. There is melodrama and generous sentimentality in the tale of the incorrigible and lovable, paradoxical Tess who bosses her adored and adoring Daddy Skinner; loves Frederick Graves with a sometimes tempestuous and sometimes wistful love; shields Teola Graves and finally teaches the hard Elias Graves the true meaning of the Christianity he has mouthed in his great house atop the hill.

There are interludes of poignant sadness. Little Tess stumbling up the courthouse aisle to comfort her condemned Daddy Skinner, and the woman Tess defying an austere congregation, and the rector who refused to administer the baptism that she may "sprinkle the brat" so he'll find his way into heaven, bring tears which will not be refused.

The supporting cast is splendid, and after complimenting John Robertson on his direction of this story, which might easily enough have dismayed the censorous censors, we would like to mention the portrayals of Jean Hersholt, Danny Hoy, Forrest Robinson, David Torrence, Gloria Hope and Lloyd Hughes.

Even while we question the idealized portrayal of Miss Pickford, we remain her ardent admirer. You may put your critical finger upon what you believe to be a false note in her work, but the elusive quality of her greatness is something beyond understanding. Such is the essence of genius.

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