Sequel My Best Girl
Screenplay C. Gardner Sullivan
Country United States
|Language Silent filmEnglish intertitles|
Director William BeaudineTom McNamara (uncredited)
Release date May 14, 1926 (1926-05-14) (US)
Writer Winifred Dunn (story), George Marion Jr. (titles), C. Gardner Sullivan (adaptation)
Directors William Beaudine, Tom McNamara
Cast Mary Pickford (Molly), Roy Stewart (Dennis Wayne), Mary Louise Miller (Doris Wayne (the baby)), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Mr. Grimes), Charlotte Mineau (Mrs. Grimes), Spec O'Donnell (Ambrose)
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Sparrows is a 1926 American silent film about a young woman who rescues a baby from kidnappers. The film, which was originally titled Scraps, starred and was produced by Mary Pickford, who was the most powerful woman in Hollywood at the time.
Mr. Grimes and his wife operate a dismal "baby farm" near an alligator-infested swamp. Molly, an adolescent inmate and the oldest of their charges, attempts to provide the other tattered, starving kids with the loving maternal care they need. Most of the children are orphans. One mother sends her child a doll, but Grimes crushes its head and tosses it into the swamp.
The children are ordered to hide anytime someone comes to the farm. When a hog buyer shows up, Ambrose, the Grimes' son, maliciously prevents Splutters, one of the children, from hiding. The buyer then purchases the boy from Grimes.
Molly has promised the others that God will rescue them. When a boy asks why nothing has happened after a month, she tells him that He is busy attending to sparrows (a biblical reference).
Ambrose catches Molly with stolen potatoes, so she and the others are given no supper. She pleads for the children, especially the sick, youngest baby, to no avail. Late that night, in a vision, Christ enters the barn where they sleep and takes the baby. When Molly wakes up, the child is dead.
Joe Bailey and his associate bring a kidnapped baby girl to the farm for concealment until they receive a ransom from the rich father, Dennis Wayne. When Grimes reads about the kidnapping in the newspaper several days later, he decides it is safer to chuck the baby into the swamp.
When Ambrose grabs the little girl to carry out the plan, Molly gets her back. After she fights off Grimes with a pitchfork, he strands her in the hayloft and decides he must get rid of her, too.
That night, Molly flees with the children. Grimes finds this hilarious; he figures either the mud or the alligators will take care of the children. However, when the kidnappers come back for the baby, he leads them on a search.
Meanwhile, Splutters is brought to the police station, having been discovered by one of the search parties. He tells the policemen and Mr. Wayne about the baby farm.
Molly and the kids emerge unscathed from the swamp and hide aboard a boat, unaware it belongs to the kidnappers. Pursued by the police, Grimes runs into the swamp, but falls into deep mud and perishes, while the two criminals flee in the boat. Unable to shake the harbor patrol, they try to slip away in a dinghy, but are run over and drown.
The baby is reunited with her wealthy father, but when she refuses to drink her milk without Molly, Mr. Wayne offers Molly a comfortable home. She accepts only on condition that he take in the other children as well.
Although William Beaudine received critical acclaim both inside and outside the film industry for his direction, 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, since the alligators' jaws were bound shut. However, Hal Mohr, the film's director of photography., debunked this story, saying "There wasn't an alligator within ten miles of Miss Pickford," and revealing in precise detail how the effect was done. Regardless, Pickford swore that Beaudine would never work for her or her company as long as she lived. She was as good as her word, as Beaudine never worked for her or United Artists again. Toward the end of the picture, they clashed so often that Beaudine developed a serious paralysis of his face from the pressure and aggravation. He finally turned the picture over to his assistant, Tom McNamara, and left the set. McNamara finished the picture uncredited.
Art director Harry Oliver transformed 3 acres (12,000 m2) of the back lot between Willoughby Avenue and Alta Vista Street into a stylized Gothic swamp. The ground was scraped bare in places, 600 trees were carted in, and pits dug and filled with a mixture of burned cork, sawdust and muddy water.
Filming began in July, over summer vacation. The children had the run of the set, barefoot and in costume, so they would become accustomed to the environment. Each child had a crew member assigned to fish them out of the gunk. These assistants also made sure the kids were cleaned up and comfortable with warm towels when they emerged from the swampy water.
Pickford developed a great fondness for two-year-old Mary Louise Miller. Pickford, who had no children of her own, even tried to adopt the toddler, but her parents refused.
An earlier version of the "Jesus in the barn" scene was filmed in which the dead baby's spirit was carried to Heaven by a phosphorescent angel. The scene was rejected in favor of the Jesus take.
Milestone Film & Video released the Library of Congress restoration of Sparrows to DVD and Blu-ray in November 6, 2012 as part of a box set called Rags and Riches: Mary Pickford Collection. The home video version contains an audio commentary track by film historians Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta.
ReferencesSparrows (1926 film) Wikipedia
Sparrows (1926 film) IMDb Sparrows (1926 film) themoviedb.org