My Best Girl and Biograph Shorts
A centenary celebration of Mary Pickford on the Screen
Introduction by Elizabeth Binggeli, Postdoctoral instructor in the departments of English Language and Literature, Cinema and Media Studies, and the College
Live piano accompaniment by David Drazin
One hundred years ago, DW Griffith cast an unknown young actress in a Biograph short film, and launched the meteoric rise of Mary Pickford to silent screen stardom and film industry legend. A talented actress and savvy businesswoman, “America’s Sweetheart” assumed a position of power in early Hollywood, controlling her public image and film appearances, and establishing her own production companies. By the end of 1909, Pickford had appeared in 51 films. By 1920, she was believed to be the most famous woman in the world.
This centennial screening celebrates Pickford’s remarkable career, featuring the short films They Would Elope and The Trick That Failed (both Fall 1909, courtesy of the Library of Congress), two of the early Biograph works that established her silent screen talent.
The program concludes with My Best Girl, the last silent feature Pickford made before sound cinema changed the landscape of the industry. Based on a novel by Kathleen Norris, this engaging and sentimental romantic comedy presents a version of the Cinderella story involving a department store stock girl falling in love with the owner’s son who works alongside her incognito in order to learn his father’s business. The formulaic plot isn’t as important as the sincere charm and naturalness of the leading players and the gorgeously-composed shots of acclaimed cinematographer Charles Rosher, who, along with Karl Struss, won an Oscar that same year for his work on F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise.
(Sam Taylor, 1927, 90 min, 35mm print courtesy UCLA Film & Television Archive)