Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Comedy of the Talking Feet -- May 23, 2019

Moving Picture World, May 24, 1919
100 years ago this month, in May, 1919, Mary Pickford's Daddy Long Legs was ready to be released. Daddy-Long-Legs was a 1912 novel by Jean Webster.  It has been filmed many times, even though some people find the subject a bit problematic.

Moving Picture World, May 24, 1919

"First National's Initial Pickford Release Is by Far the Best Picture the Star Has Had for Many a Moon and Is Made Eloquent by Mary's Talking Feet
"By Edward Weitzel

"EVERYONE has seen conversation carried on through using the hands. In "Daddy Long Legs" Mary Pickford talks with her feet. At first glance this may look like carrying atmosphere, local color, mood and all that to extremes, but the way it is done in the final scene is one of the delightful moments of the picture — and 'Daddy Long Legs' is full of them. To put it concisely: First National's initial Pickford release is by far the best picture Mary has had for many a moon. Showmanship is mixed with every stage of its making and crops out in every detail connected with the transference of Jean Webster's celebrated story and play to the screen. Not one of the thousands of readers of the book or spectators of the stage version are going to be disappointed at the story in its new form. Agnes C. Johnson's scenario and the direction by Marshall Neilan have furnished Mary Pickford with every possible aid to the display of her talents, and she dominates the picture at all times without leaving the impression that this artistic necessity is in the least overdone.

"The Comedy Is All Sure-Fire.

There is never a dull moment in 'Daddy Long Legs.' It has just enough sentiment of the right sort to balance the comedy, which is of a thoroughly entertaining character. Nothing has been left to chance in respect to the laugh getting element of the picture. The comedy is all sure-fire, but handled with such nice discrimination and fitting so neatly to the occasion that it has the effect of novelty, and is an object lesson to the tiresome person who keeps insisting that every author should put nothing but original comic situations and bits of business in his pictures. Bless the tiresome person's innocent soul, the man or woman who could do this has never been born and never will be born. A combination of story, scenario, director and star that can create the waves of laughter which swept over the Strand Theatre at the opening performance of 'Daddy Long Legs' is the best evidence that knowing how to do the trick is what screen comedy most needs.

"An Ash Can for a Crib.

"Judy Abbott, the lovable little orphan of Jean Webster's book, who begins life with a roll of newspapers for her first garments, and an ash can for a crib, and whose early years are spent in the John Greer orphanage, is well-known to the reading public of all ages. All that is required is the assurance that the spirit and charm of the original are to be found in the picture to send Judy's friends trooping to the nearest theatre where the screen version is being shown.

"For those who are not acquainted with Judy's history, the following facts will show the desirability of being among those present when Mary and her 'Daddy Long Legs' come to town:

"From Station House to Orphanage.

"Just who put Judy in that ash can and then ran off and left her is never found out. It is better to have this point settled on the start, because the end is much nicer than having her turn out to be the daughter of one of the characters in the story who showers her with money, which is the usual ending for fiction of this class. From the ash can Judy is escorted to the station house by a policeman, and then taken to the orphanage. When she is next seen she has grown into a wistful-eyed girl of twelve, whose love of fun cannot be subdued even by the systematic cruelty of the matron, Mrs. Semple. Her side partner and companion in all her defying of rules and attempts at overreaching the common enemy, the matron, is a snub-nosed boy who has more freckles to the square inch than any youngster who has so far aspired to be a movie actor.

"The Great Prune Strike.

"There is a series of comic incidents that begin with a prune strike, incited by Judy, and lead to the agitator and her faithful lieutenant being given the hunger treatment. While seated on a bench in the yard and praying for something to still the gnawing in their tummies, a box of lunch and a jug of cider are thrown over the wall. The children partake innocently but copiously of the juice of the apple when it stingeth like many swallows of fire water. Wild hilarity follows. A well, the meanest orphan of the bunch, a dog which laps up enough of the cider to send him reeling on his way, and the efforts of Judy and her chum to get the full benefit of their joyous state of mind, all take part. The skill used in its handling makes it one of the funniest comedy scenes of the screen.

"Mary Pickford's Finest Acting.

"Serious interest is put into the story when Judy is sent to college by a mysterious trustee of the orphanage whom the girl has never seen and who never lays eyes on the object of his bounty, until she has changed into a beautiful and accomplished young woman. His name is Jarvis Pendleton; but Judy, who caught sight of his shadow, calls him "Daddy Long Legs," and writes to him by the name she invented for him. As in all well-made plots, after the correct number of misunderstandings and attempts of another chap to take the heroine away from the man she loves but will not marry for fear he will not relish the facts about her birth, the two most interesting characters in the story find the right answer to their romance.

"It is in this scene that Mary Pickford does some of the finest acting of her career. It is also where she talks with her feet. She has come to Pendleton's house to explain matters. He is seated in a high-backed chair, which is turned from the spectator. When Judy discovers that Jarvis and her "Daddy Long Legs" are one and the same person, and that her secret is known to him, she attempts to leave the room, but is detained by Jarvis. Her play of mixed emotions is beautifully done.

"The Comedy of the Talking Feet

"Then comes the comedy of the talking feet. Jarvis draws her into his lap over the arm of the chair until only the heroine's slim ankles and well-shod extremities are to be seen. At first they register great indignation, then indecision, then passive consent, and as the story ends, they are moving like a pair of particularly active semaphores and telling of Judy's complete surrender. This situation brings the picture to an absolute climax which is refreshingly new, and holds the attention of the entire body of spectators to the very end.

"The growth of Judy's character as her skirts are gradually made longer is denoted by the star with uniform expertness, and at Commencement Day, when all the other girls rush to show their friends and relatives their diplomas, and poor Judy has not one friendly face in the crowd, her pathos touches the right chord.

"Marshall A. Neilan's Expert Direction.

Moving Picture World, May 17, 1919
"Marshall A. Neilan has never surpassed his direction of this picture. There are added bits of pleasantry such as the scenes in Cupid's Court and the intoxicated dog, that are made to fit into the story by force of their cleverness of conception and skill in accomplishment. The atmosphere of the different social grades is always correct, and several exterior scenes are gems.

"The cast could hardly be bettered. Mahlon Hamilton as Jarvis Pendleton, Milla Davenport as Mrs. Lippert, Percy Haswell as Miss Prichard, Fay Lemport and Angelina Wyckoff. Director Neilan as Jimmie McBride, and Wesley Barry as Judy's side partner, are the leading members of the support.

"'Daddy Long Legs' is in for a long run of popularity."

Moving Picture World, May 17, 1919
This ad renders scenes from the movie in cartoon form.

Moving Picture World, May 3, 1919
There's that finger again.  I would still like to know why there were not accepting any bookings.

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