Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Little Rascal

Little Rascal, starring Baby Peggy, photo: Gosfilmofond of Russia, Moscow.

THE LITTLE RASCAL (Чертёнок Пегги / Chertionok Peggy / [Peggy, the Little Devil]) (US 1922). D+SC: Arvid E. Gillstrom. C: Baby Peggy, Dick Smith, Fred Spencer, Blanche Payson, Max Mogi, Louise Montgomery. PC: Century Comedies. Dist: Universal. 35 mm, 1306 ft, 16' (22 fps); no titles; credits missing. Source: Gosfilmofond of Russia, Moscow.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Serata finale. Riscoperte.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, no titles, grand piano: Donald Sosin, 8 Oct 2016.

Steve Massa (GCM catalog and website): "The rediscovery of a Baby Peggy comedy is always a cause for celebration, and we have Moscow’s Gosfilmofond archive to thank for turning up The Little Rascal. Peggy Jean Montgomery made her film debut in 1920 at the age of 19 months, appearing in Century Comedies produced by Abe and Julius Stern, brothers-in-law of Universal head Carl Laemmle, who distributed their shorts."

"Starting out as an unbilled sidekick to Brownie the Wonder Dog, Peggy also worked with Lee Moran and Teddy the Keystone dog before becoming known as Baby Peggy and starring in her own series. The Sterns put together a unit that turned out her shorts through 1924, which was made up of talented comedy creators such as Arvid E. Gillstrom, Fred Hibbard, and Alf Goulding, and surrounded her with regular supporting players like Blanche Payson, Dick Smith, Max Asher, James T. Kelly, William Irving, and giant Jack Earle. Tiny and cute, but in a character sort of way with a pug nose, big eyes, and bowl haircut, Montgomery became a miniature working girl in shorts such as The Kid Reporter (1923) or spoofed rival movie stars in Peg O’ the Movies and Carmen Jr. (both 1923)."

"Part of the fun of her series is seeing the pint-sized Montgomery enact routines that were part of the standard repertoire of seasoned professionals such as Roscoe Arbuckle or Lloyd Hamilton. For instance, in Peggy Behave! (1922) the tot has broken a window and in order to escape the wrath of her large stepmother Blanche Payson she makes a big show of “polishing” the imaginary glass, even making extra effort to get rid of an obstinate flyspeck. Peggy was also headlined in a series of loose fairy-tale adaptations like Hansel and Gretel (1923) and Jack and the Beanstalk (1924), and moved into features such as The Darling of New York (1923) and Captain January (1924). Her immense popularity led to all kinds of Baby Peggy merchandise – dolls, cut-outs, books, etc . – but by age 6 she was out of films due to a disagreement with her father and producer Sol Lesser. Her Hollywood fame secured her appearances in vaudeville for a time, but she was never able to get a foothold in pictures again. Today as author Diana Serra Cary she remains a feisty presence, preserving film history and presiding over screenings of her films.
" – Steve Massa

AA: The serata finale of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto started with celebrating the last living star of the silent age – Diana Serra Cary also known as Baby Peggy – by showing a film of hers which had been believed lost but has now been found at the Gosfilmofond at Belye Stolby.

The child stars of the silent age were amazing. Would Willy (William Sanders, with a success comedy series at Éclair in 1910–1916) have been the first of them? The Kid by Charles Chaplin with Jackie Coogan perhaps gave a boost for an unprecedented enthusiasm for child comedians, and Baby Peggy became one of the greatest of them. She made more than 150 films, most of them before she turned six.

The Little Rascal is a delightful comedy. The routines involve a seesaw nutcracker, shoe polish, shaving, dogs, and a talking tube which can also be used for transporting liquids... soot... flour...

Visual quality: excellent.

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