13 April 2010 | boblipton
It's Ninety Per Cent You Get a Great Script and Ten Per Cent Actors
That's what William Wyler said about making good pictures, and according to him nothing else mattered. And here we have great actors but with a lousy script.
First, let me note the historical issues that might have caused me to dislike this film: it was missing for about eighty years, then turned up in the Czech Film Archives about 2000. A video copy was made, but it runs at 56 minutes, with several cuts that indicate the film broke -- I guess Czechoslovakia was the end of the circuit ninety years ago -- and the big 'Meet Cute' between Mary Pickford and John Bowers is substantially missing. In addition, the original titles are gone, with the current English titles being translations from the Czech.
Even bearing this in mind, this picture is a stinker of a programmer, with only a few minutes of Mary's clowning in the middle to relieve the foolishness. Most of this can be blamed on poor writing.
For example, Mary and her brothers have just landed on the dock at New York, where uncle meets them, says "I'll be right back" and is promptly run over by a truck. He's in the hospital for a month. They're succored by a nice lady. When uncle gets out of the hospital a month later, there's no sign of worry about what's happened to his Dutch dependents. They don't seem overly upset at his absence either, even if they are happy when he finds them because at a news stand right outside the hospital he finds a magazine with a cover drawn by John Bowers' character of Mary Pickford's character.
Happens all the time.
For another annoyance, at the end, Mr. Bowers' father is about to be thrown out as president of the railroad unless he can get a right of way from Mary's uncle -- he doesn't know the relationship. He wires his estranged son -- John Bowers, of course -- and tells him that if he seduces the niece and gets the uncle to sign the papers, he'll remember him in his will. Where this assumption of character came from.....
Why was Mary Pickford, Paramount's biggest star, in such a stinker? Because every time Charlie Chaplin cut a deal for a bigger salary, for a studio of his own, for his own distribution system, Miss Pickford, according to her autobiography, batted her eyes at Adolph Zukor and got more money. And in order for Paramount to make money on her contract, they had to put her in more movies. Paramount would do this over and over again, sometimes working their stars to death, but more usually turning out so many movies that the public became tired of them -- at one point, you could find six Marx Brothers movies running simultaneously in Manhattan, from the nabes for a dime, up to first-run houses for 50 cents -- and no one would pay to see them for fifty cents when you could see them for a dime and so DUCK SOUP tanked.
Anyway, I digress. The technical aspects of this movie are fine for 1916. No money was spared for the production. The actors do their best. But it's still 90% you need a great script, and so this one is a lousy Pickford film. Even in Czech.