#46) Tess of the Storm Country (1914)
OR “Squatter Knows Best”
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
Written by B.P. Schulberg. Based on the novel by Grace Miller White.
Class of 2006
Here is the film. It is a thing that happened.
The Plot: Tess (Mary Pickford) is a young girl living in a shantytown with her father (David Hartford). In addition, there’s the evil landowner (William Walters) who plots to get rid of the squatters, his son (Harold Lockwood) who falls for Tess in the process, and his daughter (Olive Carey) who has a child out-of-wedlock. And as if Tess isn’t busy enough with all of this, her father is arrested for a murder he did not commit. Oh, and there’s a storm too I guess.
Why It Matters: According to the NFR, this is the film that made Mary Pickford “America’s Sweetheart” and launched her iconic celebrity status. An essay by Pickford expert Eileen Whitfield is a love letter to Mary and her performance in this film, plus sheds a little more light on her cult following.
But Does It Really?: If you say so, NFR. This film is so plodding I have virtually nothing to say about it, other than this; if you’re going to adapt a novel into a silent film, maybe choose one that doesn’t rely so much on words or dialogue. And if you have to, maybe use more intertitles? Half the time I didn’t know what was going on, and the other half I just didn’t care. We have one other Mary Pickford film on the list, 1917’s “The Poor Little Rich Girl”, and here’s hoping it’s a better representation of this legendary movie star.
Everybody Gets One: Mary’s leading man Harold Lockwood was quite the matinée idol at the time. Sadly, he died in 1918 of Spanish Flu.
Wow, That’s Dated: The name Tessibel.
- Again, I have nothing to say about this film. It happened, I saw it, I can cross it off the list. Moving on.
Legacy/Further Viewing: The novel has been remade for film a few times throughout the years, most notably in 1922 by Mary Pickford again!