Sunday, 3 May 2015

1919: Daddy Long Legs

All I've got in my collection from 1919 is four undistinguished early shorts from Harold Lloyd, but a quick look at Wikipedia reveals that the second biggest grossing film in America this year is "Daddy Long Legs" with Mary Pickford, adapted from the novel by Jean Webster. As it happens it's available on Amazon Instant Video so I've just watched it for your benefit. (You're welcome.)
A baby girl is found in a dustbin by a policeman and given to the orphanage, where she has a generally miserable time until an anonymous sponsor sends her to college. She then becomes a successful writer and consequently a successful socialite, and has to choose between two men.
It's hardly a groundbreaking classic. The story is a fairly standard melodrama - worrying about which man to marry, that sort of thing - and the narrative structure is pretty rudimentary.
On the upside, Mary Pickford is a delight to watch, with more charm in her little finger than most modern stars have in their whole implants.
She's most fun in the early orphanage scenes, running about and causing mischief - she's supposed to be an older child here - 12 or so I suppose - and she's remarkably convincing considering she's actually 29. However since this is supposed to be a very harsh time in her life most of it is actually a bit too much fun - getting drunk on a discarded beer bottle for instance, accidentally pushing a bitchy girl down a well, and so on. All this is clearly designed more to use Mary Pickford to her best effect than to serve the story. Only a couple of incidents - the death of a small child and Mary's character Judy being punished by having her finger burnt on a hot stove to teach her what Hell is like - really make the point of the orphanage being a terrible place.
Once she leaves, it's routine melodrama stuff but with the occasional inventive scene, such as the one in the Cupid company offices where one of a group of winged babies is being ticked off by his boss by accidentally shooting two guys with one arrow. He cries while being told "you've probably set off one of those darned eternal triangle things". This is one of those scenes that highlight what the movies lost when sound took over.
Favourite line: "Love is a bad habit. It's much safer to have the measles - they ain't near as painful."

Anyway, if you're looking for something to watch on Amazon Instant Video, you could do worse - just don't read the synopsis, it gives too much away. And they're lying about it being in HD.


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