My Best Girl

May 06, 2016

(Sam Taylor, United States, 1927, 35mm, 90 min)

Restored 35mm print!

After nearly 15 years as the silver screen’s reigning “Queen of the Movies,” Mary Pickford lovingly concluded her silent movie career with one of her best films—the utterly charming romantic comedy, My Best Girl. Featuring future husband Charles “Buddy” Rogers as her leading man, Pickford shines as a department store Cinderella who falls in love with the owner’s son, once again exhibiting the wide-ranging talent that had made her a sensation the world over.

Based on a story by novelist Kathleen Norris, the screenplay (originally titled Paradise Alley) was written by Hope Loring, who had co-authored Paramount’s successful World War I epic Wings (1927)—which had featured Rogers. An attraction between the two actors sparked during Roger’s audition with Pickford and subsequently blossomed while the cameras rolled. As Pickford biographer Jeffrey Vance relates, “What makes My Best Girl special is that it captures the miracle of two people falling in love with each other as their characters do. It is challenging to capture genuine emotion on a cold piece of celluloid, but falling in love is beautifully immortalized in My Best Girl. Fittingly, the movie depicts Pickford’s first romantic screen kiss in a feature film.

Director Sam Taylor honed his comedy chops directing and co-directing a string of classic Harold Lloyd films (including Safety Last!, 1923; and The Freshman, 1925), and his experienced hand is especially evident in the film’s overall polish and by the engaging way he textures the strange and quirky characters that populate the shop girl’s milieu. The sophisticated photography was contributed by longtime Pickford cinematographer Charles Rosher. Fresh from his Oscar-winning work on F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), Rosher created a special lens, the “Rosher Kino Portrait Lens,” for Pickford’s close-ups on My Best Girl to help the 35-year-old actress portray her 17-year-old character. While Taylor would go on to direct most of Pickford’s sound pictures, My Best Girl would prove to be Rosher’s last completed film with the star actress and producer.

This new print of My Best Girl is based on the Archive’s earlier restoration, which combined the best shots from two 35mm acetate fine grains and a 1940s era 16mm print, and featured remade intertitles to improve the overall appearance of the film. This new print incorporates several recent refinements, including better quality copying of shots derived from the 16mm source and improved timing.

---Steven K. Hill


Screens with:

The Son's Return

(D.W. Griffith, United States, 1909, DCP, 11 min)

This recently re-discovered Biograph short features Mary Pickford in her second major screen role. In it, she plays Mary, the sweetheart of Will (Charles West), a country innkeeper’s son who heads to the big city and becomes a successful banker. After five years, he returns to his poverty-stricken parents who do not recognize him and plot to rob their own son. Fortunately, Mary steps in to help the drama end happily. The Son’s Return was directed by D.W. Griffith and was shot on location in Leonia and Coytesville, New Jersey.

A Manly Man

(Thomas H. Ince, United States, 1911, 35mm, 12 min)

Restored 35mm print!

Of the over 30 one-reelers Mary Pickford made in Cuba for Carl Laemmle’s Independent Motion Pictures Company, A Manly Man is one of few that survives today. Pickford plays Lola, a young Filipino woman who falls in love with Duncan (William E. Shay), a Caucasian man sent to her village on business. After Lola risks her life nursing his fever and saving him from a knife attack, Duncan marries her and resists the temptation to return to his American fiancée. Directed by Thomas Ince and co-starring Pickford’s first husband Owen Moore, A Manly Man was later reissued under the title His Gratitude.


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