Like the opera, the story is set in Nagasaki in the early 1900s. It portrays the ups and downs of a young woman known as Butterfly, who lost her parents at a young age and has become an ... See full summary »
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Clara Kimball Young,
Mary Pickford is Cho-Cho San, a beautiful and high-ranking Japanese woman who is sold in marriage to Navy Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton (Marshall Neilan). After a while, he is ordered back to the US. There he marries his old sweetheart, while in Japan, Mary bears him a child.
It's a pure drama. Miss Pickford has little in the way of comedy. It's also from the period when she was attempting to prove her range by playing a variety of exotic roles: Italian, French, Dutch, Hindu... it would finish near the end of the following year, when the war in Europe made American roles more popular, and then she would begin to play juvenile roles, which were even more successful.
Originally a short story by John Luther Long based on his sister's stories about being a Methodist missionary in Japan, "Madame Butterfly" was first published in 1898. It was immensely popular. By 1904, Puccini's opera was a great success. I have little doubt that everyone was pleased to see Miss Pickford bring the role to the screen; this was an era when "yellow face" roles were not an issue.
However, I find it among the weakest of Miss Pickford's features. The lack of humor, as well as Sidney Olcott's static direction, don't help, despite the pretty set and costume designs. Then too, Miss Pickford was growing tired of the rapid rate of movie production, as Adolph Zukor worked her hard to make money on her astonishingly large salary. It would come to a head within a year, and in 1917, Cecil B. Demille would direct two of her movies.
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