Wednesday, April 3 @ 7:30pm
DOROTHY VERNON OF HADDON HALL
Directed by Marshall Neilan • 1924
With live organ accompaniment by Jay Warren!
Mary Pickford wanted to grow up, and so she embarked on a spate of “adult” projects with unimpeachable credentials. America’s Sweetheart showed her (mildly) naughty side in Ernst Lubitsch’s American debut, Rosita, and followed it with Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall, an elaborate sixteenth-century drama adapted from a popular novel by Charles Major that boasts exquisite photography from Pickford’s regular cameraman, Charles Rosher, and an armada of authentic (and expensive!) costumes designed by future director Mitchell Leisen. Pickford stars as Dorothy, the headstrong daughter of a noble family with no interest in abiding by a betrothal to her hapless cousin. Instead, she has her eyes on Allan Forest, the son of a rival house (and, in real life, Pickford’s own brother-in-law, so doubly forbidden fruit). Familial strife soon gives way to court intrigue (it’s not every thwarted marriage that arouses the enmity of Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots) and scenes of galloping derring-do that rival the work of Douglas Fairbanks. (In fact, film historian Kevin Brownlow has speculated that Fairbanks stood in for his wife for a few of Dorothy Vernon’s more difficult stunts!) A tremendously personal project for Pickford, she even directed a few scenes herself when Marshall Neilan proved too drunk to hold up the reins. Received indifferently by an American public that pigeon-holed Pickford as an eternal juvenile and later dismissed and buried by Pickford herself, Dorothy Vernon has been difficult to re-evaluate. Finally restored by Belgium’s Cinémathèque Royale from complementary French and Russian nitrate copies, with English intertitles recreated through the assistance of the Academy Film Archive, Dorothy Vernon cries out for rediscovery. (KW)
Presented in conjunction with Library of Congress and the Silent Film Society of Chicago
120 min • United Artists • 35mm from Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique
Introduced by film scholar Christel Schmidt, who will sign copies of her new book, Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies, following the screening.