The Poor Little Rich Girl is a 1917 American comedy-drama film directed by Maurice Tourneur and stars Mary Pickford, Madlaine Traverse, Charles Wellesley, Gladys Fairbanks and Frank McGlynn, Sr. It was shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey. In 1991, The Poor Little Rich Girl was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Plot – It’s about an 11-year-old girl, Gwendolyn, who is left by her rich and busy parents to the care of unsympathetic domestic workers at the family’s mansion. Her mother is only interested in her social life and her father has serious financial problems and is even contemplating suicide. When she manages to have some good time with an organ-grinder or a plumber, or have a mud-fight with street boys, she is rapidly brought back on the right track. One day she becomes sick because the maid has given her an extra dose of sleeping medicine to be able to go out. She then becomes delirious and starts seeing an imaginary world inspired by people and things around her; the Garden of Lonely Children in the Tell-Tale forest. Her condition worsens and Death tries to lure her to eternal rest. But Life also appears to her and finally wins.
The Poor Little Rich Girl
Directed by Maurice Tourneur
Written by Frances Marion
Starring Mary Pickford, Madlaine Traverse, Charles Wellesley, Gladys Fairbanks.
Distributed by by Artcraft Pictures
Running Time 65 minutes
Release date March 5, 1917
Mary Pickford (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979) was a Canadian-American motion picture actress, co-founder of the film studio United Artists, one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and started the Mary Pickford Foundation, a charitable organization.
She often played the role of a poor girl who married into a wealthy family but always stayed true to her roots. This friendly, modest, honest persona compounded with her beauty made her an international favorite of women and men alike. She was known as “America’s Sweetheart” and during her time, she was recognized as the most famous woman in the world.
Pickford was awarded the second Academy Award for Best Actress for her first sound film role and also received an honorary Academy Award in 1976. In consideration of her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute ranked Pickford as 24th in its 1999 list of greatest actors of all time.
I’d have to say upfront that the female stunt performers at the very start of the film industry were very impressive. They were always expected to do things that even men wouldn’t do. I’m sure that hasn’t changed over the years because just a few years ago, acclaimed stuntman and Arnold Schwarzegenner Stunt Double, Peter Kent, said of female stunt performers, “A lot of times the guys are wearing pads and stuff under their pants. But then you’ll get a woman in a skimpy dress doing a stair fall, and you can’t hide anything under that. I give kudos to a lot of the stunt-women out there because many times they take way more of a beating than the men do. ‘We want you to do this in a frigging negligee. Okay.'”
Musidora gets my nod for 1915 due to sheer style. Her mystique was accentuated by large, dark eyes and a habit of wearing a black leotard, hood and tights while on the set.Born Jeanne Roques, she used Musidora as a stage name. She started out as an acrobat and did all her own stunts in this film serial. It’s also interesting to note, her character’s name in the film, Irma Vep, is an anagram for Vampire. Vamp is a colloquial term applied to describe a particular type of femme fatale, popular in silent films. The term is a shortening of the word vampire, and is used to describe a woman who is glamorous in an exotic, stylized and usually overstated manner. She is usually noted for her striking features, dark clothing and hair, and cosmetics which darken and accentuate the eyes and lips. Her character is a heartless seductress, and the men she seduces are usually shown as helpless victims unable to resist her. From the perspective of American film audiences, she is often seen as foreign, usually of undetermined Eastern European or Asian ancestry. She was designed as the sexual counterpoint of the wholesome actresses such as Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. Among the notable vamps of the silent screen were Theda Bara, Louise Glaum, Musidora, Nita Naldi, Pola Negri, and in her earliest film appearances, Myrna Loy.
The Gaumont film, Les Vampires, directed by French film Director, Louis Feuillade, is a 10-part serial, and is about gangsters and secret societies inspired by the exploits of the real-life Bonnot Gang, rather than what the title suggests, Vampires. It’s a very good film serial and is very popular for it’s many twists throughout the film. It’s considered one of the first action crime thrillers. Though not intended to be “avant-garde,” Les Vampires has been lauded by critics as the birth of avant-garde cinema and cited by such renowned filmmakers as Fritz Lang and Luis Buñuel as being extremely influential in their desire to become directors. It’s listed in “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” edited by Steven Jay Schneider.
Femme-Fatale – The phrase is French for “deadly woman”, a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural; the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, vampire, witch, or demon, having some power over men.
A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure. In some situations, she uses lying or coercion rather than charm.
Although typically villainous, if not morally ambiguous, and always associated with a sense of mystification and unease, femmes fatales have also appeared as antiheroines in some stories, and some even repent and become true heroines by the end of the tale.
Avant-Garde – Avant-garde(from French, “advance guard” or “vanguard”) is a French term used in English as a noun or adjective to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art,culture, and politics.
Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The notion of the existence of the avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism.
Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!
It should be no surprise to anyone that I open this blog with the Master himself, Charlie Chaplin. He gets my first vote for his film,” The Tramp”. It is actually Chaplin’s sixth film with Essanay Studios. The Tramp marked the beginning of The Tramp character most known today, even though Chaplin played the character in earlier films. This film marked the first departure from his more slapstick character in the earlier films, with a sad ending and showing he cared for others, rather than just himself.
Plot – The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets his dream girl (Edna Purviance) and takes a job on her Father’s (Ernest Van Pelt) farm. The Tramp helps around the farm, including getting rid of criminals. Everything is perfect, until the Tramp meets his dream girls’ boyfriend. He doesn’t want to get in the way of her happiness, so the film ends with the Tramp heading on back down the road.
Directed, Written, and Starring Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Jess Robbins
Also Starring Edna Purviance and Ernest Van Pelt
Cinematography by Harry Ensign
Edited by Charlie Chaplin
Distributed by Essanay Studios
Release Dates April 11, 1915
Run Time 32 minutes
Goof – Near the end of the movie, the “Tramp” writes a note and there are two separate shots of it edited in. Both notes are in completely different handwriting and the word “good bye” is spelled differently. But Charlie couldn’t blame the editor because… Yep, you guessed it! It was himself.
Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor and film-maker who rose to fame in the silent film era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona “the Tramp” and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry.
Chaplin’s childhood in London was defined by poverty and hardship. His Father was mostly absent and his Mother was committed to a mental institution, so Charlie began working at a very young age. He always preferred performing to the workhouses, so he toured music halls and later worked as a stage actor and comedian. At 19 he travelled to America and began working for the Fred Karno Company, appearing in the popular Keystone comedies. He soon developed the Tramp persona and formed a large fan base. Chaplin directed his own films from an early stage, and continued to hone his craft as he moved to the Essanay, Mutual, and First National corporations. By 1918, he was one of the best known figures in the world.
In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the distribution company United Artists, which gave him complete control over his films. This is where he wrote, directed, and produced many films that rank on various industry lists of the greatest films of all time.
Chaplin’s later years are marked with controversy as he found his popularity decline. He was accused of having communist sympathies and was criticized for having marriages to much younger women. There was even a scandal involving a paternity suit. Eventually, an FBI investigation was opened, and Chaplin was forced to leave the United States and settle in Switzerland.
In 1972, as part of a renewed appreciation for his work, Chaplin received an Honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”. Today, he continues to be held in high regard and is often celebrated as one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood.
Just as a side note, I think that Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in the film “Chaplin” was brilliant. It’s a travesty that he didn’t win an Academy Award for it, but you’ll have to wait to read all about it in my next series, “100 Years of the Best Oscar Snubs”.