name = Sparrows
caption = DVD cover
writer = Winifred Dunn, story
Gustav von Seyffertitz
May 14, 1926
runtime = 84 min.
country = USA
budget = $463,000
preceded_by = Little Annie Rooney
My Best Girl
imdb_id = 0017423
"Sparrows" is a 1926
silent filmabout a young woman who rescues a baby from kidnappers. The film, (originally titled "Scraps"), starred, and was produced by, Mary Pickford.
The evil Mr. Grimes and his wife operate a dismal baby farm in an alligator infested swamp. Molly, an adolescent inmate of the farm, attempts to provide the tattered, starving kids on the place with the loving maternal care they need. Conspirators bring a kidnapped baby to the farm for concealment. Molly steals away with the infant and leads all the raggle-taggle youngsters to safety. The police arrest the kidnappers. The baby is reunited with her wealthy father who gratefully offers Molly and her charges a comfortable home.
Mary Pickford... Molly
* Roy Stewart ... Dennis Wayne
* Mary Louise Miller ... Doris Wayne (the baby)
* Gustav von Seyffertitz ... Mr. Grimes (as Gustave von Seyffertitz)
* Charlotte Mineau ... Mrs. Grimes
Spec O'Donnell... Ambrose Grimes (as 'Spec' O'Donnell)
* Lloyd Whitlock ... Joe Bailey, alias Stone
* Billy Butts ... One of the children
* Monty O'Grady ... Splutters
* Jack Lavine ... One of the children
* Billy 'Red' Jones ... One of the children (as Billy Jones)
* Muriel McCormac ... One of the children (as Muriel MacCormac)
* Florence Rogan ... One of the children
* Mary McLain ... One of the children (as Mary Frances McLean)
* Sylvia Bernard ... One of the children
* Seesel Ann Johnson ... One of the children (as Seeseell Ann Johnson)
* Camille Johnson ... One of the children
* Mark Hamilton ... Hog buyer (uncredited)
* A. L. Schaeffer ... Bailey's confederate (uncredited)
William Beaudine... Director
* Tom McNamara ... Director, (uncredited)
* Winifred Dunn ... Story
* George Marion Jr. ... Titles
* C. Gardner Sullivan ... Adaptation
* Mary Pickford ... Producer (uncredited)
* Hal Mohr ... Cinematography
* Charles Rosher ... Cinematography
* Karl Struss ... Cinematography
* Harold McLernon ... Film editing
* Tom McNamara ... Second unit director
* Harry Oliver ... Settings
* Earle Browne ... Collaborator
* Carl Harbaugh ... Collaborator
* Tom McNamara ... Collaborator
* William S. Johnson ... Electrical effects (as William Johnson)
* "The New York Times": "Gustav von Seyffertitz, with a suspicion of Lon Chaney's penchant for deformity, is emphatically capable as Mr. Grimes. Little as she does, Charlotte Minneau gives an excellent portrait of the cruel and unimaginative Mrs. Grimes."
* "The New York Times":"Although Miss Pickford's performance is as flawless as ever, it is doubtful whether she served herself well in selecting this special screen story, in which there is an abundance of exaggerated suspense and a number of puerile ideas. It is an obvious heartstring tugger during most of its length, and it frequently dallies with the thrills of old fashioned melodramas."
* "Motion Picture Magazine", December 1925: "It was Douglas Fairbanks who told us that Mary Pickford's production of "Sparrows" was Dickensonian. And after seeing it we have nothing less and nothing more to say of it. Perhaps you know that it is the story of a baby farm . . . with Gustav von Seyffertitz as Grimes, the cruel manager . . . and Mary, as Mollie, who watches over the little boys and girls. Melodrama is interwoven in the story and there is nothing new or startling about the plot. But you won't realize this until the last lovely close-up of Mary has faded from the screen. Which means, of course, that the story interests you so much that your critical faculty is dulled. We are glad that Mary is not going to continue to play grown-ups parts. So many on the screen can be the grand lady. And no one else that we have ever heard about or seen captures the elusive and misty quality of childhood as Mary does. You'll weep a little. You'll laugh a great deal. And you'll hold your breath once or twice."
* "Picture Play", January, 1927: "The choice of "Sparrows" was a singular one for Mary Pickford to make, but no one can deny that she has done the picture surpassingly well. The subject is gloomy, and some of the horrors recall Dickens, yet the darkness is shot through with many laughs. Indeed, so heavily does the hand of melodrama smite "Sparrows" that the picture passes beyond the bounds of credibility. Thus the spectator relaxes, content to give way to his amazement at Mary's skill. She is Mama Mollie, a lovely waif in whom the maternal instinct is well, there aren't words to tell how strong it is, for she mothers eleven woebegone, poverty-stricken children at a baby farm kept by the villainous Grimes in the midst of a Louisiana swamp. A kidnapped baby is thrust by Grimes into the group and the plot gets underway, Mollie's heroic efforts to keep the baby against the will of Grimes leading her and the entire brood into the deadly swamp. "Sparrows" is well worth seeing."
Behind the scenes
William Beaudinereceived critical acclaim both inside and outside the film industry for his direction of this film, star Mary Pickfordfelt that he was too cavalier about the safety of the actors, especially in a scene where she had to carry a baby across some water filled with alligators (Pickford wanted to use a doll, but Beaudine insisted on using a real baby), and even though the alligators' jaws were bound shut, Pickford swore that he would never work for her or her company as long as she lived. She was as good as her word, as Beaudine never worked for her or United Artistsagain.
* Toward the end of the picture, director William Beaudine and star Mary Pickford clashed so often that Beaudine developed a serious paralysis of his face from the pressure and aggravation due to their frequent arguments. He finally turned the picture over to his assistant, Tom McNamara, and left the set. McNamara finished the picture, uncredited.
* Art Director Harry Oliver transformed three acres of the back lot between Willoughby Avenue and Alta Vista Street into a stylized Gothic swamp.The ground was scraped bare in places, 600 trees were carted in and pits dug and filled with a mixture of burned cork, sawdust and muddy water.
* Filming began in July over summer vacation. The children had the run of the set, barefoot and in costume, so they would be accustomed to the environment by the time the camera rolled.
* Mary Pickford gave each child an engraved silver pencil as a gift, and they each had a crew member assigned to fish them out of the gunk when the shot was canned. These assistants also made sure the kids were cleaned up and comfortable, with warm towels when they emerged from the swampy water.
* Mary Pickford developed a great fondness for two year old trouper Mary Louise Miller. Mary, who had no children of her own, even tried to adopt the toddler, but her parents refused.
* An earlier version of the 'Jesus in the barn' scene was filmed in which the dead baby's spirit was carried to Heaven by a phosphorescent angel. The scene was rejected in favor of the Jesus take.
* [http://www.silentsaregolden.com/featurefolder2/sparrowspage.html Sparrows]
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