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L. Frank Baum
Gwen's family is rich, but her parents ignore her and most of the servants push her around, so she is lonely and unhappy. Her father is concerned only with making money, and her mother cares only about her social position. But one day a servant's irresponsibility creates a crisis that causes everyone to rethink what is important to them. Written by
Mary Pickford, 25-years old, plays Gwen, an 11-year-old girl who has all the money in the world but she's quite unhappy. This is due to her parents not paying any attention to her and the servants pretty much push her around. The fact that she has no friends doesn't help matters but a tragic turn might be what causes everyone to realize how special she actually is. THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL isn't the masterpiece that some people make it out to be but it's quite an interesting little film. I think most people would go into any film with a bit of skepticism whenever you had an adult at the age of 25 playing someone that is just 11 when the movie ends. Pickford became a legend playing these young parts and she would be doing this nearly ten years later and people were still eating it up. Her performance here is certainly the main reason to watch this film because there's no doubt that you're watching a truly talented actresses doing a rather remarkable job. I was rather skeptical going into the film but it takes a matter of seconds for you to believe Pickford is this young child. I'm not sure what it was but not once did I see an adult playing a child but instead you were watching a child play the part. Pickford was just downright marvelous when it came to the facial gestures and just simple looks that you'd expect to see from a child. No matter if she was being playful or or throwing a temper tantrum, you believe it is a child. Pickford goes through a wide range of emotions and she nails all of them perfectly but my favorite has to be a rather long sequence where a new "friend" is brought to the house but the girl is a rich snob who quickly gets into a fight with Pickford. The playful but bratty way the actress plays this sequence makes for some big laughs and it's certainly the highlight of the movie. Madlaine Traverse and Charles Wellesley are both good as her parents but there's no question everything in the screenplay (by Francis Marion) is for Pickford. Director Tourneur handles the material quite well but the really highlight of his vision comes from some of the more nightmarish scenes including one where a large snake goes after the girl and another one where her father visions himself committing suicide. The film runs 65-minutes and I must admit that there were several times where I got a little bored and this is just one reason why I'd stop short of calling the film a flat out masterpiece. I thought there was a little too much "melodrama" showing how unhappy the girl was and this includes one scene where she's punished by being forced to where boys clothing. With that said, those interested in the legend of Pickford will find this film a good place to start because it shows her in the type of role people loved her for.
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