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In the late 1800s New England, banker William Marlowe and his wife Martha have arranged for their daughter Mary to marry the officious and older Lord Hurley of England. Mary does not want to marry Lord Hurley, but rather John Carlton, a lowly clerk at her father's bank. The two fell in love at first sight. When John and Mary's relationship is discovered by her parents, William discharges John. Knowing he can't get another job in New England, John decides to move west to California to start a new life off the land. Despite the probable hardships, Mary wants to go along and the two elope. They do face those initial hardships, most specifically an especially violent encounter with cattle rustlers, but they are able to carve out a successful life as ranchers. Twenty years, several children and a mansion of their own later, John is a popular choice to run for governor. Some past indiscretions may not only threaten his gubernatorial run but his marriage altogether. Written by
A movie and Pickford's plea of forgiveness to Douglas Fairbanks
This in 1933 was Mary Pickford's last movie though she would not have known it at the time. Historically this is a particularly special movie for Mary's personal life.
Mary used this movie to make a statement to her husband Doublas Fairbanks (they were separated at this time and seemingly finished as the intense and deeply passionate couple they were). She at this time was telling Douglas Fairbanks she could forgive his meanderings and in fact the tenor of the whole movie is also about these sorts of choices.Mary was in fact seemingly desperate to get back together with Douglas. I think Mary chose this movie because it spoke to her current marital problems with Fairbanks.
Douglas Fairbanks responded to Mary in his last movie in 1934 - appropriately in the role of Don Juan in 'The Private Life of Don Juan'. His response - that he was tired, he needed to rest and to sleep. In real life Douglas Fairbanks in the end couldn't get Mary Pickford out of his heart and made a number of attempts to restart their relationships, but Mary had hardened her heart. And when eventually Mary did relent and decided she couldn't live without Douglas she was a few hours too late. Fairbanks in the end gave up, resolved himself that Mary wouldn't come back and booked himself on an overseas cruise. Mary sent him a message but it was too late, he had already left. And thus it was one of the great and passionate relationships of Hollywood finally died. It should not be under estimated how much these two loved each other. It was something neither got over for the rest of their lives.
Secrets was an odd movie that apart from the message it directed at Douglas Fairbanks certainly show cased some of Mary's great skill at comedy and at evoking an emotional response from the audience not to mention the last we got to see some her acting habits that created an attachment between her and the viewer. Mary's acting has always been effortless, always natural with a natural tempo. A study of her movies through the years is a revelation. Lillian Gish always thought Pickford the greatest of all actors.
Right from the beginning in 1909 Mary Pickford worked out and stated clearly many times that Stage Acting was NOT the way to act in moving pictures. Pickford pioneered method acting and the skill of silent acting, inventing a new type of acting for film, - where very subtle movements, gestures facial use and so forth had to be used to tell a story and engender emotion. She became the greatest and most skillful silent actor of all time. Revealing also are around 24 newspaper interviews she gave during her early and mid career that showed, that even the very young Mary Pickford made a very careful study of acting for the silver screen and her development of method acting. Even the teenage Pickford took the job extremely seriously.
Another thing people viewing this movie must remember about 1933. Sound was still new to film and the film technology for it still very young and the means of recording actors still in it's development stage, sound quality was not very good. In Mary's movie Coquette, her first talkie, sound microphones were stationary. Actors couldn't speak until they were in proper range of the microphone which created all sorts of problems and curiosities in the earliest talkies. They would speak their line, remain silent until the moved to the next designated spot where a fixed mike was and speak their lines and so on. Mary's other talkie Kiki wasn't a success at the time, though now it is thoroughly entertaining and in some parts great fun and one of the funniest comedic dance scenes you will run across in movies.
The success of Mary Pickford's talkie movies wasn't about Mary but what the public wanted Mary to do. She went in to totally different and unfamiliar roles. But one has to understand what was going on in Mary's life at this very time. She lost her deepest love and closest friend, her mother, which caused her to cut her hair for the first time every - totally changing her image and to reassess her life. She was devastated. Her other family members sister and brother were also in great troubles through alcoholism and sickness and of course she was having trouble with her husband. On top of this her studio UA needed to put out movies to make some money, this being the Great Depression, and Chaplin wasn't pulling his weight at the time. Pickford was under huge emotional, family and business pressures at this time.
Pickford never decided to make this her last movie - it just turned out that way as other business and family pressures kept her too busy and eventually she thought not to bother with it anymore - wrongly thinking that her popularity had gone past its use by date.
In this movie the comedic undressing scene bespeaks the effortless grace, timing and organizational skill of Pickford. The death of the baby silent scene fittingly gives us one last glimpse of the great actress.
It was a pity that Pickford never returned, she still had much to give and all the skill in the world to apply. Her acting was as good as anybody and probably would have reached its great heights again.
The main reason Mary Pickford never made movies again one feels, despite all the other reasons, is the loss of Douglas Fairbanks. If these two had reconciled, rejoined, it is inevitable their great passion and love of life would have seen Mary back in movies, instead this time being a great pioneer of the talking movies. Her career in acting spanned from the age of 5 when she traveled by train day after day, year after year, learning her trade.
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