It’s the Weekly Movie Thread! Let’s talk movies! Or “talkies” as they were once known. Today we’re going to look at something from the “pre-talkie” era, but go ahead and chat about movies you’ve seen, enjoyed, or maybe not enjoyed so much.
This week, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pollyanna with the prompt: What movies were the actors distractingly the wrong age for their roles?
Pollyanna is a 1920 movie about an orphan girl who had to live Wirth her overly religious Aunt Polly in New England. Life is pretty miserable there but Pollyanna bears up and makes the best of it and cheers up everyone in town in the process. The movie — which would be remade by Disney some decades later in the version that you’re probably far more familiar with — has some nice special effects for 1920, which include tiny demons coming out of food. I did not expect THAT to be a thing in a movie called Pollyanna.
Also great: the torrential downpour that greets Pollyanna at the train station.
The little orphan girl was played by Mary Pickford, who was a 27-year-old woman.
Standing at a height under five feet tall, Pickford was often cast in these little girl roles. She also starred as a child in The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), and Daddy-Long-Legs (1919). A little distressingly, her Wikipedia page states “Pickford’s fans were devoted to these ‘little girl’ roles, but they were not typical of her career.”
I love physical acting, and Pickford does a lot of that in these silent movies. However… she still comes off as a grown won playing a little girl. They didn’t even really do that much work with the costuming, honestly. Unless she’s in her pajamas, she’s dressed like a business woman. Even in the pajamas… she still looks like a grown woman in oversized pajamas. Also breaking the illusion: she is often in scenes with actual kids.
I supposed it fooled kids though. Among the Pickford anecdotes: “Douglas Fairbanks Jr., when he first met her in person as a boy, assumed she was a new playmate for him, and asked her to come and play trains with him, which she obligingly did.”
The most distracting to me, though, is probably John Mills in Great Expectations. I love everything about that movie but Mills is pretty clearly a 40-year-old man trying to pass as a young adult. At least Pickford can get away with it since you don’t hear her voice and you can imagine, somewhat, that she’s speaking like a younger girl. Plus her acting is big and exuberant and can fool you a lot of the time.
(Not when she’s sharing the screen with Katherine Griffith’s Aunt Polly, though. During those moments I can only think: “Why is this taller woman — who probably plays basketball — bullying this smaller woman around?”)
Also…. Don’t forget to list your TOP 10 FILMS OF THE DECADE (2010-2019) at the Avocado Sight & Sound!
Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Live-action edition. Tuck Everlasting
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