The Little Princess (Marshall Neilan, 1917): USA

Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed on DVD.

The Little Princess

Mary Pickford was a busy girl in 1917, starring in six films. The Little Princess, while not one of her best films that year, is still made entertaining through yet another of her quality performances.

Sara Crewe (Mary Pickford) is sent by her father to live in a girl’s boarding school. Because of her supposed wealth the head mistress treats her more kindly than the other girls and indulges her, never punishing her. The head of the school only agrees to this because she believes she will benefit from Sara’s wealth when her father returns. When Sara’s father dies and leaves her penniless the head mistress makes Sara a servant girl. She becomes good friends with the other servant girl, Becky (Zasu Pitts), as they help each other cope with the hunger and harsh treatment they both receive.

The film is notable for having been scripted by female screenwriter Frances Marion, but the film is a little hit and miss, not drawing the viewer into Sara’s world as much as it ought to. One highlight of the film is a rather lengthy section where Sara tells the other girls the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, however, given the lack of development in certain other areas of the film makes one wish it didn’t take up so much of the film’s length.

What really makes this film standout are the fantastic performances of both Pickford and Zasu Pitts. They have especially good chemistry together and they make such a likeable duo one can’t help but wish they had more scenes together.

Though the film itself doesn’t quite measure up to Pickford and Pitts performances, they are such a delight to watch that it makes this film essential viewing for any Pickford fan, and an entertaining viewing experience for the silent film aficionado.

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