I came for Mary
Gwen Kramer | Sunny and not-so-sunny California | 05/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Since this is a DVD double feature, I will review both elements separately.Without Lying Down:Take the second title very seriously, this is very much about women in Hollywood. I completely agree that the powerful women who worked behind the camera in the silent era have been unjustly forgotten but I do not feel that this mini-documentary cast any more light on them. But first, Frances Marion.As a previous reviewer pointed out, this documentary does little to explore her creative methods and instead chooses to tell her story with interviews from modern filmmakers and historians as well as narrative and quotation. Some of the narrative is quite ridiculous. After the San Francisco earthquake, we are informed that Marion was "empowered" to seek employment. In other words, she needed money and got a job.Kevin Brownlow and Leonard Maltin are intelligent and enjoyable interviewees and I was quite interested in what Marion's secretary and nephew had to say but I too found the modern filmmakers to be a bit superficial in their comments. Of course, this documentary was made when most of the main players in the silent era were dead but I feel that time could have been spent more wisely and in a more balanced manner. For example, we are not informed that Pickford made two films with DeMille after he quit from "The Poor Little Rich Girl" nor are we told that it was Lillian Gish who had creative control in "The Scarlet Letter" and "The Wind", although she was forced to put a happy ending on the latter. Such omissions were irritating. (Gish was a woman too, give her a little credit!)We are told what a brilliant writer Marion was but are shown comparatively few clips of her work. I would have loved to see more of it so that I could judge for myself. Show, don't tell is the cardinal rule of writing.On the other hand, the few clips included are good and Brownlow and Maltin's expertise are always welcome.Overall: 3 starsA Little PrincessThe real reason I bought this disc, this is a charming Pickford film made at the height of her fame and beauty. While not a masterpiece on the scale of "Stella Maris" or as sweetly romantic as "My Best Girl" it does display Pickford's considerable talent. Zasu Pitts makes a very charming Becky and Norman Kerry (mostly remembered for "The Phantom of the Opera") is suitably heroic as Pickford's beloved father. Marion does a fine adaptation of the children's classicSo, a worthy Pickford vehicle that deserved to be released.Overall: 4 starsSo, in conclusion, take the documentary with a grain of salt and enjoy the silent charm!"
A nice bonus
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 03/16/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Without Lying Down tells the story of Frances Marion an important screenwriter who wrote the scenarios for some of the best silent films. In its fairly short running time of 56 minutes it includes many clips from the movies she wrote. It is while showing these clips that the documentary is at its best. These films show Marion's talent. They show her ability to write believable characters involved in meaningful relationships. It is therefore a pity that the documentary does not investigate this talent more deeply. It does not really explain what was involved in writing a screenplay for a silent picture and why Frances Marion was so good at this. It sketches her life quite well, but really falls down in its inclusion of various modern screenwriters who use Marion's story to score political points. The comments of these filmmakers do not seem to be well informed. They do not appear to have any particular knowledge of silent film, let alone silent film writing. Moreover, their commentary is predictable and clichéd. The documentary would have been much improved if it had left the analysis to experts like Kevin Brownlow and Leonard Maltin who make some insightful remarks during the course of the film. Frances Marion for a time was Mary Pickford's favourite screenwriter, writing some of her best films. This DVD includes as a bonus one of the films they made together. I must confess that it is for this bonus that I bought the DVD and it makes up for whatever faults lie in the documentary. A Little Princess is a wonderful film. Pickford plays a little girl who is sent to a boarding school in London. She is rich, but her fortunes take a turn for the worse and her cruel headmistress makes her a scullery maid. She befriends fellow drudge Zazu Pitts (famous for her later performance in Greed). The interaction between Pitts and Pickford is superb and shows the talents of both actresses in depicting a very special friendship. My only criticism of this film is that it includes an Arabian knights interlude, with a veiled Pickford courting Ali Baba and fighting the forty thieves. It is good fun and shows Pickford's ability to play both adult and child roles in the same film, but takes up too great a proportion of the film's running time without really progressing the story. The black and white print of A Little Princess is good. It has some scratches, but the image is clear and sharp and detailed. Accompanying the film is a good piano score, by Jon Mirsalis. It follows the action well and has some suitably emotional themes."
Mary Pickford fans Must Have!
Samantha Kelley | USA | 11/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary is interesting, but I believe I am somewhat biased as I saw it only because I knew A Little Princess was on it.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mary's co-star was Francis Marion's husband. Also, the detailed description of the struggle to release Poor Little Rich Girl to the public is familiar to any who have read Mary Pickford's autobiography. There are many scenes of Francis and Mary together and constant reminders of how close they were.
This is almost like an addition documentary for Mary Pickford because most of the footage in it was not shown in Mary Pickford: A Life on Film.
It is also interesting to hear Mary speak candidly with Doug.
There were also several bonuses for myself in this film, including seeing Kevin Brownlow, a film historian I greatly admire, for the first time. Also, as a Little Rascals fan, seeing Jackie Cooper somewhat recently was also worth my time.
Finally, A Little Princess is very interesting as it is not released on any other tape. I agree with the dozens of critics who say the Ali Baba sequences are far too long, but it is somewhat interesting. I especially like the way they filmed Mary in the barrel.
Overall, I recommend this to any Mary Pickford fan, but I'm not sure if fans of Francis Marion will think it is up to par."