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The print I have of this movie has no musical score. So I just found an
internet music station that plays only piano and harps and it worked
well enough. I do wish the Pickford foundation would get their hands on
a copy and do this version justice with orchestrations and a cleaner
print than I have, which is actually pretty good considering it's
almost 100 years old, and release it along side the superior 1922
version. Although it certainly is not as good as the remake, it has a
lot of merit in its own right.
Firstly, we have to remember that Griffith was in the planning stages of filming Birth of a Nation. Edwin S. Porter is no Griffith and he basically treated the film as if he were filming a stage play but on location. Tess would have been the perfect vehicle for Griffith to experiment with film and editing techniques. Griffith is a wonderful storyteller of the greatest warmth and emotion (True Heart Susie, Broken Blossoms) and Tess would have been a great story for him to tell in his own unique style. Of course, if Griffith has filmed Tess in 1914-5, we wouldn't have Beaudiline's (sp?) flawless 1922 version. Porter's direction leaves one cold.
What Porter does do well is film on location. He's at his best outdoors and not working with actors. His style is almost docudrama and that approach may work for some stories. For this one, especially compared to Beaudiline's emotionally charged version, it was an unfortunate director's choice especially compared to Mary's over the top performance. She is having the best of times chewing the scenery and is works brilliantly for Tess.
This version of the film is all Mary from the first to last frame. She was talented enough to realize that she was not working with Griffith or DeMille as a director. Therefore she over compensates and leaves her competent but not great co-stars in the dust as well as Porter himself. But it's the little things she does as an actress that makes her extraordinary. The way she plays her father's homecoming by inching up his arms was a great choice and gives a really nice touch. Who can play white trash with more fervor, innocence and passion than Mary Pickford. Even in her lesser films, she awesome to watch.
If you are casual silent movie or Mary Pickford fan, then this film probably is not for you. But if you believe in the artistry of either Mary Pickford or silent films, then go for this one!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although cruder and rather primitive when compared to the 1922 version, this Tess from 1914 has it's share of enchantments. When watching this film one should view it through the eyes and mind of a 1914 audience. Feature films were in their beginnings and this was Mary Pickford's fifth feature. Movies themselves were now accepted and very popular among every class. There was something about watching Mary Pickford that moved silent-era movie goers and "Tess Of The Storm Country" elevated her to a new, higher star status. Audiences went wild over Tess and it broke records on four continents, setting Mary forever apart from other actors as the first modern celebrity created through moving pictures. The star's charisma starts right from the opening credits. A very ethereal Mary in delicate dress steps from behind a curtain, with an armload of roses she sets them into a nearby vase, then in the arranged bouquet, she buries her lovely face framed by those famous curls, the epitome of feminine beauty. Then enters Tess, a feisty and strong-willed girl in tattered dress. Mary's performance is brilliant, as it runs the gamut of her emotions, from a childish appeal and sprightly comedy to the finest of dramatic pathos. The film itself has some stunning exterior scenes, that were shot in what would now be called "deep focus". The locations were filmed suitably in Del Mar and at the Japanese fishing village in Santa Monica. With all of this, one can understand and appreciate the audiences feelings at the time, the magnetic grip Mary Pickford held, and why this was Mary's favourite character, to re-create again in 1922. Thankfully this film survives and is still a fascinating silent movie to watch.
A wealthy resident attempts to dispossess squatters who live near his
home, which leads to a false accusation of murder.
The film starred Mary Pickford, in a role she would reprise eight years later for the 1922 adaptation by John S. Robertson. Now, that in itself is rather interesting. It was not unusual in the early days of Hollywood to make a film and then make it again a few years later, sometimes using the same cast. Today we get upset when a film is remade that fast, but it sort of made sense at the time because technology was improving so quickly.
The strangest thing is that the remake is the better-known film, but this one is the one preserved as historically and culturally important. It seems like the one that more people had seen would have a bigger impact.
It's a wonder 94 years after the first screening copies still exist. I had the opportunity to watch it and it was magnificent! As usual, sweet little Mary Pickford knows like no other how to mix comedy with drama. At the time, Tess of the Storm Country became a huge success. What else could it have been? Pickford clearly had fun shooting this film and probably was still buoyed up by the success of her previous film A Good Little Devil. The movie revolves around Tessibel Skinner, a little girl who is enjoying her life, despite the fact she's poor. When her father is put on trial for murder, she is devastated and tries everything to save him. But exactly how much is that going to cost? The movie had great outdoor sets, which makes the film a cultural pleasure. Pickford remade the film in 1922 after a few box office mistake and it became a hit all over again. The audience just can't stop adoring sweet little Tessibel Skinner.
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