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Stella Maris is a beautiful, crippled girl, who is cared for by a rich family. They shield her from the harsh realities of the world, so that she has no idea of the cruel things that some people do. Unity Blake is a poor orphan all too familiar with the harsh realities of the real world. These two young women both fall in love with John, love which is complicated by the fact that he is still married to (though separated from) a bad wife. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
When John Riska returns to his house one night, Unity offers him a 'Sally Lun' (sic). A 'Sally Lunn' is a type of bread, from Bath in the English West Country. The recipe is said to have come to the area courtesy of a French immigrant in the 17th century. It can be served sliced horizontally and toasted, with sweet or savoury toppings such as plain or flavoured butters, jam and clotted cream. See more »
Mary Pickford (as Stella Maris) is a beautiful, but bedridden, paraplegic; she "has been tenderly shielded from all the sordidness and misery of life." Ms. Pickford (as Unity Blake) is, also, "another little prisoner of fate, 'The Ugly Duckling' of a London orphanage." Pickford's "Stella" lives luxuriously, with Aunt Ida Waterman (as Lady Blount) and Uncle Herbert Standing (as Sir Oliver Blount). Dashing cousin Conway Tearle (as John Risca) is a gentleman caller, and future love interest. Mr. Tearle is rather unfortunately married, however, to alcoholic Marcia Manon (as Louisa Risca). Ms. Manon visits the London orphanage, and espies Pickford's "Unity". Apparently, she has arranged to adopt "Unity" as a servant (should the waif be able to find her way to Manon's home). Upon arrival, "Unity" is treated as a slave; and, after nearly beating "Unity" to death, Manon lands herself in the pokey. Soon, Tearle is left responsible for "Stella" and "Unity"; and, both of Pickford's crippled women fall in love with him. Who will he choose?
The predictable "Stella Maris" story is somewhat poorly told. The events, and time frames given, make for an incredibly disjointed storyline. If only events were more fully explained; for instance, how is it that "Unity" is adopted (or, re-adopted?), hidden from her lovely lookalike's open portals for so long, and gets romantic with her adopted father? And, he, remember, is still married, and courting his cousin? Perhaps, the confusion could be ended with a re-fashioning of the film's title cards. Small details, like the spelling of characters' names, are likewise inconsistent. It's odd that an otherwise obviously fine production should suffer from more than a few distractions.
"Stella Maris" is, however, redeemed by its incredible performances; particularly those essayed by Pickford and Manon. Pickford's "Unity Blake" is utterly riveting; and her "Stella Maris" is no slouch, either. The contrasting roles, directed by Marshall Neilan, really allow Pickford to show her incredible prowess as an actress, rather than as a personified "star". It may be true that Pickford was able to play "Unity" without repercussion, because audiences could also have her lovely, curled "Stella". She is so good that an unenlightened viewer (who misses an occasional title card) may not believe Pickford was playing both roles. Pickford delivered many fine performances, but "Stella Maris" may be THE one to show a Pickford detractor. Certainly, Mary Pickford was a 1918 "Best Actress", for her dual role; and Marcia Manon's addicted, sadistic wife was the year's "Best Supporting Actress".
********* Stella Maris (1/21/18) Marshall Neilan ~ Mary Pickford, Conway Tearle, Marcia Manon, Ida Waterman
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