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THE HOODLUM is perhaps one of Mary Pickford's lesser known silent
films, but it's a total delight. And she does not play "little Mary,"
in this one, but plays an older version of her famous and beloved
We first see Pickford as Amy Burke, a rich little terror who throws hysterical fits when she can't have her way. She's maybe 16-ish, in school, but she drives a car (a "white racer"). Her grandfather (Ralph Lewis) is planning a trip to Europe but she pitches a fit for some reason and decides to go live with her father on Craigen Street in New York City while he finishes up his sociological study for his book. Snooty Amy has a major culture shock as she adjusts to life in the slums.
So Pickford becomes one of the "gang," learns to fit in, and also learns through a neighbor (Kenneth Harlan) that her grandfather framed him and sent him to jail. Of course all wrongs are righted by the end of the film.
Pickford is hilarious as she shoots craps with loaded dice, runs from the police, dances a wild tango in an alley, and eventually settles the score between the wronged man (whom she marries) and her grandfather.
The film is great looking with a terrific "Craigen Street" set that includes tenement hallways and stairs, fire escapes, and alleys. The film is briskly directed by Sidney Franklin and boasts some beautiful title cards by Ferdinand Pinney Earle, who was the major title card artist of his time, and whose art sometimes resembles that of Edward Hopper.
But Mary Pickford is center stage here whether she's trashing her mansion bedroom, driving wildly down country roads, or dancing in an alley. Aggie Herring, Melvin Messinger, and Max Davidson (as Isaacs) co-star.
Despite the rather reckless-sounding title, the Mary Pickford feature
"The Hoodlum" is actually an entertaining and thoughtful movie that
resembles many of her other films, with a few touches that make it
different and worthwhile. The story-line is a bit too far-fetched on
some occasions, but otherwise the movie works very well.
Pickford gets to play the kind of high-spirited but innocent character at which she excels, and she makes full use of the material. After her character moves in with her father, some of the scenes of her transformation are quite amusing. Pickford had the rare ability to bring out a character's yearning for change and desire for experimentation without making the character come across as self-righteous or rebellious.
The production and the rest of the cast are solid, but it's mostly Mary's show, and she pulls everything together. Her interactions with her grandfather are nicely done on both ends, and add some real substance to a movie that was already entertaining. The settings are believable, and especially so in the slum neighborhood. The story is relatively simple (if implausible at times), but it is thoughtful and worthwhile.
It's too bad the title of this film would be a turn-off to many people,
because the story is delightful, the acting fantastic, and the print that I
saw of the film excellent. This has become one of my favorite of all Mary
After watching Amy Burkeses transition from high-brow Fifth Avenue to the ghettos of New York I had to read the book it was based on. The film is quite different than the novel, but both are enjoyable in their own ways. Mary's script makes the romance a little sweeter, and the storyline in her film is less political.
I would love to see this one on DVD with a new musical score.
When I sat down to watch The Hoodlum quite frankly I was expecting a
gangster film of sorts even though it starred Mary Pickford. It was not
what I thought it would be given the title, but it was a chance for
Mary to show off her considerable talent and appeal.
The Hoodlum finds Mary the granddaughter of Ralph Lewis a John D. Rockefeller like tycoon who gives her whatever she needs. The mansion she lives in looks very much modeled on the Rockefeller Estate in Pocantico Hills in Tarrytown, New York. She's spoiled and bored and after a tiff with granddad, goes to live with her father on Craigen Street in the middle of a slum in the inner city. But father who is writing a sociological urban treatise has precious little time for her also, so Mary learns the ways of Craigen Street very fast.
If Mary Pickford wasn't America's Sweetheart she might well have been called America's Imp from this film. In The Hoodlum she gets to show off her considerable comedic talents when fleeing from the law. The family chauffeur 'let' her drive the car and her speeding results in a hilarious car chase with the local law. And her second chase seen with a city cop after she cleans the clocks of the other kids in a crap game is worthy of anything Mack Sennett or Charlie Chaplin might have done in their films.
The Hoodlum is a different take on Mary Pickford and one her considerable legion of fans should not miss.
Mary Pickford's appeal as `America's Sweetheart' is very clear in this
While many of her fellow actors use an excessively theatrical style, she is
totally natural. She inhabits her character completely and, contrary to the
stereotype of her films, that character is anything but sweet for most of
the movie. In fact, much of the delight of watching her is in enjoying her
Another impressive facet of the film is the authentic-looking slum where Amy Burke (Pickford's character) spends most of her time. Although created at a Hollywood studio, the slum almost smells like old New York.
The film does employ some ethnic stereotypes common at the time but the poor characters are generally treated with affection, while the rich are seen as uncaring and in need of enlightenment. Also, it seems notable that Amy associates with ALL the kids of the slum neighborhood, not just those of her own ethnic group.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Hoodlum is a good example of what Mary Pickford produced when she was totally at the helm of her pictures, and it shows, as the actress was just as concerned about the quality of her films as she was with her acting. This film was Pickford's second fully independent production and it gives the very best photography of the time, direction, scenarios, lighting effects and the finest attention to detail. Even Sidney Franklin's career as director of this film was elevated by working with Mary Pickford. Reviews at the time were glowing, with one stating; "After 8 years she is still queen of the screen". During the production of this film, Mary was struck by the influenza epidemic that had killed many people worldwide. In the spring of 1919, she was out of action for 4 weeks, but so dedicated was the actress that she returned to work against doctor's orders. Others have already written very adequate synopsis about the story, so I will add, Mary plays Amy Burke, the spoiled rich girl with so much spunk and liveliness, it's just plain fun to watch her. I thoroughly enjoyed this very delightful movie and encourage anyone interested in Mary Pickford, to have a look at her performance in this fine film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have never seen a post-WWI or post-WWII film begin like this one.
Pickford begins with a cute little promo to STILL buy war bonds in
order to pay for the war even though it has ended. I am surprised that
in the restored version of this film that they included this and it's a
This is apparently the second film produced by Mary Pickford and its title is a bit odd--sounding less sweet than the usual Pickford film! And, in many ways, Mary plays someone who, uncharacteristically, is NOT sweet but a real spoiled rich brat--though in keeping with her usual roles she does play a young girl (despite being awfully old for such a part at 27). She lives with her grandfather, who is a cut-throat industrialist. He spoils her rotten and seems quite content to have raised a little monster.
One day, Mary's father returns from abroad. Apparently he's some sort of sociologist and likes studying and writing about the poor. He offers his daughter a chance to come live with him in the slums of New York and she accepts, as she longs for her father's attention. However, the jerky grandfather feels betrayed and disowns her! Nice guy, huh?! Once in the slums, Mary is STILL a snob and has no interest in the people around her. But, eventually, in an almost magically fast transformation, Mary not only reaches out to the poor around her but becomes one of them--a real ragamuffin. Eventually, when the grandfather learns about her, he is at furious. What happens next you'll just have to see for yourself in this well-acted and fun film. But, like many of Mary's films, it is low on the believability scale, so please just sit back and enjoy without questioning how ridiculous some of the film becomes. It's still a fine old fashioned melodrama. Not among her best, but still a very good effort--plus the plot is a bit unusual for a nice change of pace.
By the way, how DID they make the cat do all those acrobatics? I sure hope the cat wasn't harmed to make it do that!!
Bratty young Mary Pickford (as Amy Burke) lives a life filled with
tantrums in her fancy Fifth Avenue mansion, while wealthy grandfather
Ralph Lewis (as Alexander Guthrie) wheels and deals. At first, Ms.
Pickford is thrilled when Mr. Lewis announces a trip to Europe. She
wants to go shopping. For no particular reason, Pickford decides she
doesn't want to travel. It could be a woman's prerogative, or Pickford
may be missing writer daddy Dwight Crittendon (as John Burke), an
apparent sociologist. When her father suddenly returns, Pickford moves
with him to slummy Craigen Street, where he plans to work on a book.
So, Pickford goes from pampered rich girl to street hoodlum - it's a struggle, but Pickford's plucky.
Previously, one of Mr. Lewis' business endeavors required the jailing of an innocent man, arousing bachelor Kenneth Harlan (as John Graham). Mr. Harlan turns out to be one of Pickford's ghetto neighbors. Pickford thinks Harlan might make good husband material, unaware he is plotting against her grandfather, who canceled his trip to Europe and has also moved into the area. "The Hoodlum" is hospitable Pickford fare. Her "little girl" character is broadly played, and provides salvation. Some of the early sequences are not pieced together well; for example, Pickford's father should have returned before she declined the European trip.
And, the early running time plays more painful than funny (especially for animals), and out of place.
But, once the story moves to an artificially created poor side of town, the film becomes quite visually strong. Scene-stealing street kid Melvin "Buddie" Messinger (as Dish Lowry) looks like the template for an early Mickey Rooney. Pickford's director Sidney Franklin, photographer Charles Rosher, and editor Edward McDermott combine camera shots and coordinate personnel to marvelous effect; their screen is incredibly alive. Though this is not one of Pickford's strongest overall characterizations, she excels in several sequences; a highlight features her lost in a bluesy-tinted New York City rainstorm, without an umbrella.
******* The Hoodlum (8/31/19) Sidney Franklin ~ Mary Pickford, Ralph Lewis, Kenneth Harlan, Buddy Messinger
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Hoodlum" saw Mary desperately trying to diversify her screen
persona - for the last couple of years fans had kept her as Rebecca,
the poor little rich girl and a little princess. She was also getting
the enviable reputation of only having the best directors and
technicians on her films, but as far as she was concerned it was no
secret - if you want the best (Marshall Neilan, Frances Marion) you pay
the best. The reviewers noticed, especially on her film "The Hoodlum"
where they commended both her and Paramount for never being better.
They also couldn't see Mary, who had now been on top for almost six
years, as abdicating her throne soon.
Amy's (Pickford) grandfather, Mr. Guthrie, is a hard headed business man and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as Amy rules the house with tantrums and terrorizing the servants and the poor cat. When contrary Amy decides at the last minute that she doesn't wish to accompany her granddaddy on his European holiday he banishes her to her father's care when father takes up residence in the heart of the Bowery. The film's by line is a bit misleading "a spoiled young girl forced to fight for survival in the slums and alleys"!! giving the impression that much of the film is about her effort of trying to fit in with her new found acquaintances. There are some funny scenes regarding her initial feelings at being forced to give up her Park Avenue luxuries for survival in the slums (there is a scene where Amy imagines she is living in a pig sty - it was handled better in "Poor Little Rich Girl") but almost the next scene shows her as the leader of the gang, shooting craps with loaded dice, dancing a shimmy for the entertainment of the street and the funny but inevitable police chase. A funny scene shows Amy bewailing the fact that she is coming last in the class whereas at the start a wheedling tutor told her the only person smarter than herself was her grand daddy!!
There is also a slum scene of dramatic reality - when Amy is taken by a little girl to visit her sick mother you see a drunkard's room with a swag of dirty rags for a bed and a sick woman with crawling bugs on her pillow. Into this monstrous poverty comes a "stranger on the third floor" - it is Amy's grand-daddy who in his disguise as old Mr. Cooper is horrified by Amy's "hoodlum ways". Amy has also caught the eye of William Turner (Kenneth Harlan) who is working on an undercover dossier on the crooked business practices of Mr. Guthrie who was responsible for sending him to prison on a falsified charge.
It all climaxes back at Park Avenue when Amy and William are caught raiding the safe for the incriminating ledgers, Mr. Guthrie is back, a completely changed man vowing to continue his good works among the city poor. No other reviewer has mentioned what little Dishy is doing in the millionaire's house - there must have been a sequence in which Guthrie adopted the little boy and bought him home to his palatial house but it is missing now. Dishy was played by Buddy Messinger who had been part of a child acting troupe (Virginia Lee Corbin, Francis Carpenter etc) who had starred in a series of "kid pix" directed by the Franklin brothers. They were hugely popular and Mary must have seen what a rapport Sidney Franklin had with children because his direction of Mary and the slum kids is the best part of the movie!!
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