Friday, June 1, 2012

Mary Pickford Blogathon

Today I am participating in the Mary Pickford blogathon hosted over at Classic Movies.
Please stop by all the bloggers participating and see what they have to say about this Hollywood Legend.

Today I want to talk about the ONLY Mary Pickford movie I have ever seen.  This movie though has had such a profound impact on my gaming and later writing that I would be remiss if I didn't talk about it at least once here.

Sparrows (1926)
I saw this movie back when I was in Junior High School.  One of the great things about growing in my family is we are all movie buffs and we (dad, mom and my brothers and sisters) all have different tastes.  Sparrows is one from my Dad's collection (though I am sure my brother Daniel has seen it too). Now I don't recall if I saw it on tape or on one of those Classic Movie channels back in the early days of cable TV.  But I have very distinct memories of this movie.

First, and this might run me afoul of my blogging cohorts today, I don't like Mary Pickford.  OR rather, I should say I didn't like her in this. What I think was supposed to be a quiet reserve of faith and strength to me became a weak and ineffectual character.   But I am getting ahead of myself.

Sparrows was to me a horror movie.  That is how I was introduced to it, and those were the eyes I viewed it.  It was not though horror as I was expecting.  You can read up on the plot on Wikipedia, I want to talk about what I saw and the effect it had on me.

I guess I like and hate this movie for all the wrong reasons.  Molly (Pickford) was to me weak and spent too much time looking to God to solve her problems when I felt she should have been trying to solve them on her own.  In fact the only time she and the children in the movie are safe is when she gets up and moves them on her own.   I have (maybe because I am an atheist) always been fascinated by the "strong, silent faithful" type. I like it when they succeed, but most often I expect them to fail.   I wanted the kids to escape, but Molly seemed like a poor candidate to help them.

Then there is Mr. Grimes.  Not since the Baron and Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had I seen a character more evil in his disregard of children (my mom ran a Day Care, in my mind the most evil thing was to hate or harm a child).  He left a lasting impression to be sure.  So lasting that to this day I have an evil necromancer character who lives in a swap (like Grimes) who hates children.

In my mind the dichotomous battle was set. Old, evil, Grimes versus the young, pure Molly.  And so help me if I didn't like Grimes better.  I really wanted the kids to rise up and just beat the living shit out that guy and his wife.  But they never did, worse, Molly keeps looking up to the sky like she is getting some private communique. Like that is going to help.

I think about this movie fairly often to be honest.  Many things I wrote after I watched it will bubble back up in things I write today.  I still used swamps as my ultimate hideout of evil (but that could also be in part to the Legion of Doom).

Reflecting back now I would like to see this again, if for no other reason than to give this film it's due with more mature eyes and sensibilities.

Though the metaphorical descendants of  Grimes (his own children if you will) will live on in my games for some more years.

Of course in the movie good triumphs over evil, but not because good was smarter/better but because evil was dumb.  I can't help but think how this movie would have been handled by Jonathan Demme and if Grimes had been more like Hannibal Lector.  Grimes was "Jr. High evil" not "world evil" to paraphrase Kim Possible (who also makes Molly look bad).  There is a movie for you.  "Sparrows 2000", the bad guy is a Lecter/Buffalo Bill like evil and the hero is a fiery red-head Kim Possible type.   Nah.  It looses a lot in the translation.  As much as Sparrows fails to measure up by my jaded standards today,  it was quite effective when it came out and when I first saw it.

So to the movie I remember I do owe a creative debt.


KC said...

I'm not fond of the constant appeals to god in Sparrows either, but Molly weak? Not after all those head butts! I too view this as primarily a horror film. The cruelty of Grimes and his family and the horrible condition of the children has haunted me since I first saw the film. The child in peril angle sort of reminds me of Night of the Hunter, but it is so much more grimey and bleak here. That bubbling swamp gives me the chills! Thanks so much for your post. I really enjoyed hearing your perspective.


Very nice! I watched and reviewed Sparrows for the blogathon too, and for me it had all the looks of an horror movie. After, I watched Daddy Long Legs and had a different impression, because it was a film in which Mary was very funny.
The religion in Sparrows is a nice element, considering the beautiful scene where Jesus comes to get the dead baby. During the escape I really wanted Molly to leave back the obnoxious girl who was bothering the group with her fright.