A loutish husband neglects his patient, loving wife to enjoy a night on the town. When he comes home drunk and irritable, he mistreats her. Then he falls asleep, and has a dream that causes...
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A loutish husband neglects his patient, loving wife to enjoy a night on the town. When he comes home drunk and irritable, he mistreats her. Then he falls asleep, and has a dream that causes him to reconsider the way that he treats his wife. Written by
Mary Pickford was only 17 years old when she began making movies for the American Biograph Company in the spring of 1909. She was already a veteran stage performer, and not especially proud of working in what was then considered a lowly offshoot of the theater. According to later accounts, however, she quickly recognized the extraordinary talent of her primary director, D.W. Griffith, and soon came to appreciate the quality of the films they made together, and the larger importance of motion pictures as an art form and a tool of universal communication. In those early days movie actors were not identified in their films' credits, so after more than a year of hard work Mary confronted her bosses at the studio and requested that she receive on-screen billing. When they refused her request, Mary departed.
In December of 1910 she signed with Carl Laemmle's IMP, i.e. the Independent Motion Picture Company. Laemmle, who would later found Universal, lured Mary with a $175-a-week salary and the promise of on-screen billing. Initially, she was also pleased to be working with another Biograph veteran, Owen Moore, whom she secretly married early in 1911. Miss Pickford would later admit that the impulsive marriage was a grave mistake. By all accounts the handsome and superficially charming Moore was a mean-spirited, abusive alcoholic, and their marriage was a nightmare.
How sadly ironic, then, that Mary Pickford's second IMP release, a one-reel drama entitled The Dream, features her playing opposite her real-life husband in a scenario that reflects their life together. According to film historian Charles Musser the story was written by Mary herself, which suggests that when it was made this movie represented both a disguised slice of autobiography and (in its hopeful ending) a wish-fulfillment fantasy. Moore portrays a drunken, philandering husband who staggers in after a night on the town, torments his wife with his infidelity, then passes out on their living room sofa. Unconscious, he dreams of a role-reversal turnabout in which it is Mary who misbehaves. He envisions her as a wild, "loose" woman, garishly dressed, smoking, drinking and carrying on with men. The vision is so horrific that he awakens as chastened as Scrooge on Christmas Day, vowing to stay sober and treat his wife with respect.
In real life Moore never reformed, and Pickford ultimately divorced him in 1920 -- paying him a hefty settlement -- so that she could marry Douglas Fairbanks. As for The Dream, technically speaking it is no better than the other movies Mary appeared in for Laemmle: they were produced quickly and cheaply, with none of the finesse that made Griffith's Biograph dramas exceptional. Director Thomas Ince was still learning his craft at this point; he would go on to have a distinguished career (unfortunately curtailed by an untimely death), but his work here is that of a beginner. The Dream is enacted on two simple sets, and its story could just as easily have been conveyed in a stage play. But because of the autobiographical element this film stands out from the standard fare Mary appeared in at IMP, and Pickford fans will find it of special interest. Incidentally, in addition to his other unfortunate traits, this film reveals that Owen Moore was also an insufferable ham.
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