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Evil Mr.Grimes keeps a rag-tag bunch orphans on his farm deep in a swamp in the US South. He forces them to work in his garden and treats them like slaves. They are watched over by the eldest, Molly. A gang in league with Mr. Grimes kidnaps Doris, the beautiful little daughter of a rich man, and hides her out on Grimes' farm, awaiting ransom. When the police close in, and Mr. Grimes threatens to throw Doris into the bottomless mire, Molly must lead her little flock out through the alligator-infested swamp. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
Although William Beaudine received critical acclaim both inside and outside the film industry for his direction of this film, for many years a story circulated that star Mary Pickford felt that he was too cavalier about the safety of the actors, especially in a scene where she had to carry a baby across some water filled with alligators (Pickford wanted to use a doll, but Beaudine insisted on using a real baby), and even though the alligators' jaws were bound shut, Pickford swore that he would never work for her or her company as long as she lived. However, cameraman Hal Mohr, who shot this picture, said in an interview that the "alligator incident" never happened. He said that there "wasn't an alligator within ten miles" of Pickford, and that both the alligators and the baby in the film were all dummies because the studio would never have let a star of Pickford's magnitude endanger herself by working with real alligators, let alone allow a baby to go near them. In any case, Beaudine and Pickford did clash on the picture. Beaudine eventually walked off the set and turned the direction over to his assistant, and he and Pickford never worked together again. See more »
An introduction explains: "The Devil's share in the world's creation was a certain swampland, a masterpiece of horror; and the Lord, appreciating a good job, let it stand." The Devil's swampland is where Mary Pickford (as Molly) lives, with some orphans and a baby. Ms. Pickford has managed to avoid being thrown in the swamp, over the years, and has assumed the role of "Mother" to the young children. They are kept, as "baby farm" slaves, by wicked Gustav von Seyffertitz (as Mr. Grimes). Mr. von Seyffertitz, Charlotte Mineau (as Mrs. Grimes) and Spec O'Donnell (as son Ambrose) make a frightfully wicked family.
Pickford employs too many of the girlish pouts and lip-twisting grimaces to make this one of her best characterizations; playing "Molly" as a young woman of indeterminate age would have been fine (something Pickford would do in her next film, the extraordinary "My Best Girl"). Otherwise, the Pickford persona works. As might be expected, the production is first class. Harry Oliver's swampy set is magnificent. The direction of William Beaudine and photography of Charles Rosher, Hal Mohr, and Karl Struss likewise superb. The too long conclusion is noticeably anti-climatic.
The special effects and editing are still convincing viewers that Pickford and the children were in some kind of danger during the "alligator-infested swamp escape" sequence. In Booten Herndon's "Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks" (1977) Mr. Mohr explains, "There wasn't an alligator within ten miles of Miss Pickford. Do people think we were crazy? I shot that scene myself It was hard work for all of us, but the only thing those alligators came close to biting was a chunk of horsemeat." Fewer people questioned Pickford's meeting with Jesus Christ, in an earlier scene.
******** Sparrows (5/14/26) William Beaudine ~ Mary Pickford, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Charlotte Mineau, Spec O'Donnell
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