Daddy-Long-Legs [1919]

In Daddy-Long-Legs, Mary Pickford plays an orphan, Jerusha (Judy) Abbott, abandoned as a baby in an alley and raised in a cruel orphanage. The scenes in the orphanage are extraordinary. Pickford, although in her late '20s when the film was shot, is absolutely believable as a pigtailed 12-year-old; she's the epitome of a child-woman, the essence of gamine. Protector and champion of her fellow orphans--truly adorable kiddies dressed in identical gingham outfits--Pickford's Judy is brave and kind but full of piss and vinegar, never sticky-sweet. One scene in particular is a showcase for Pickford's mastery of physical comedy. She and an orphan lad, played by Wesley Barry, a little boy whose slapstick flair matches Pickford's own, get drunk on applejack. It's plain hilarious. After Judy grows up, a secret benefactor, whom she dubs "Daddy-Long Legs," bankrolls her college education. At graduation, Judy is the model of young womanhood: beautiful, intelligent, kind, and fascinating to the opposite sex. Two tony suitors vie for her favors. (The characteristic Pickford message, reflecting her own life story, is implied here: in America, one can hail from an ashcan and still rise to the top.) The film preserves its sweet surprise ending until the last happy moment. (The movie was remade in 1955 with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron.) The tape also includes a rare early Pickford short, What the Daisy Said (1910), directed by D.W. Griffith, with a racy plot about a Gypsy who seduces young country maidens. --Laura Mirsky

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