Friday, March 04, 2005

Secrets (1933)

Secrets. Image: Mary Pickford Foundation.

US © 1933 The Pickford Corp. P+D: Frank Borzage. SC: Frances Marion – based on the play by Rudolf Besier and May Edginton (1922). DP: Ray June. PD: Richard Day. COST: Adrian. M: Alfred Newman. "Oh, Susannah" (Stephen Foster).
    Starring Mary Pickford (Mary Carlton), Leslie Howard (John Carlton), Ned Sparks (Sunshine), Mona Maris (Señora Lolita Martinez). 82 min.
    A print of beautiful definition from La Cinémathèque francaise.
    Viewed at Orion, Helsinki, 4 March 2005 (previously unshown in Finland).

The final "secrets" speech by Pickford the eternal girl now as an old lady is the raison d'être of the film. Another high point: Pickford confronts her rival (Mona Maris) and puts the words in her hubby's mouth that even as he was at his most unfaithful "I was always everything"; the eternal story resonates even in the era of Clinton.

A better film than Borzage's first adaptation, 1924, with Norma Talmadge. An epic story covering the years 1865–1932, often with bold montage sequences. I like the way the film feels like a summing-up of Mary Pickford no longer the child but all woman with many aspects. It has the feel of a tribute to Griffith with whom Pickford first blossomed, and also to the high silent era of the late 1920s with forceful use of the close-up and montage. Too hurried and stereotyped to be a masterpiece, yet at least ***

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