Gwen's family is rich, but her parents ignore her and most of the servants push her around, so she is lonely and unhappy. Her father is concerned only with making money, and her mother cares only about her social position. But one day a servant's irresponsibility creates a crisis that causes everyone to rethink what is important to them.Written by
Wealthy ten-year-old Mary Pickford (as Gwen) lives in a beautiful mansion; she has everything she needs, except love. She must make an appointment to see her father (Charles Wellesley), who spends his time wheeling and dealing; and, she barely gets an opportunity to see her mother (Madlaine Traverse), who is busily attending to social duties. Her parents do not have time to spend with lonely Ms. Pickford; and, she is left in the care of unloving servants...
A lot of studio trickery helps to make Pickford believable as the fun-loving, independent and lonely little Gwendolyn; her age is not at all vague, as her 11th birthday is celebrated during the running time. You'll notice the large sets, and tall actors (standing on telephone books, no doubt) right away. Yet, finally, it's Pickford who pulls off the ruse. When she sits down for her tutoring, in close-up, Pickford makes the character a fully believable individual. The effort to make Pickford appear small adds to the film's surreal whimsicality.
Importantly, "The Poor Little Rich Girl" is the first of Pickford's adult portrayals of little girls. Her relative youth, and lack of "affected" mannerisms, is an early strength; she is fresh, and convincing. Later on, Pickford's portrayals suffered, as she employed stock muggings, pouts, and grimaces (to be fair, these were responsive to moviegoers increasing demand she remain in the "little girl" roles). Subsequently, the Pickford mannerisms were more cloyingly adopted by Shirley Temple, and others; for example, note how closely Pickford resembles Ms. Temple after she dons a boy's hat and clothes.
Director Maurice Tourneur and set designer Ben Carré help create the extraordinary, whimsical world "Gwen" inhabits. There are some "special effect" sequences, ending with a drug-induced delirium. Therein, Pickford dreams about the day's people and events; and, finally, she meets the beckoning figure of death, who invites: "Here, in the forest, dark and deep, I offer you, eternal sleep " Maxine Elliott Hicks and Herbert Prior are among the more notable supporting players. Frequent Pickford writer Frances Marion does a fantastic job bringing story details together; she, Pickford, Mr. Tourneur, and Mr. Carré certainly created a monster.
********** The Poor Little Rich Girl (3/5/17) Maurice Tourneur ~ Mary Pickford, Maxine Elliott Hicks, Herbert Prior
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