Action / Drama

Plot summary

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Mary Pickford Photo
Mary Pickford as Molly
749.87 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 49 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by wes-connors8 / 10

A Child Shall Lead Them

An introduction explains: "The Devil's share in the world's creation was a certain swampland, a masterpiece of horror; and the Lord, appreciating a good job, let it stand." The Devil's swampland is where Mary Pickford (as Molly) lives, with some orphans and a baby. Ms. Pickford has managed to avoid being thrown in the swamp, over the years, and has assumed the role of "Mother" to the young children. They are kept, as "baby farm" slaves, by wicked Gustav von Seyffertitz (as Mr. Grimes). Mr. von Seyffertitz, Charlotte Mineau (as Mrs. Grimes) and Spec O'Donnell (as son Ambrose) make a frightfully wicked family.

Pickford employs too many of the girlish pouts and lip-twisting grimaces to make this one of her best characterizations; playing "Molly" as a young woman of indeterminate age would have been fine (something Pickford would do in her next film, the extraordinary "My Best Girl"). Otherwise, the Pickford persona works. As might be expected, the production is first class. Harry Oliver's swampy set is magnificent. The direction of William Beaudine and photography of Charles Rosher, Hal Mohr, and Karl Struss likewise superb. The too long conclusion is noticeably anti-climatic.

The special effects and editing are still convincing viewers that Pickford and the children were in some kind of danger during the "alligator-infested swamp escape" sequence. In Booten Herndon's "Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks" (1977) Mr. Mohr explains, "There wasn't an alligator within ten miles of Miss Pickford. Do people think we were crazy? I shot that scene myself… It was hard work for all of us, but the only thing those alligators came close to biting was a chunk of horsemeat." Fewer people questioned Pickford's meeting with Jesus Christ, in an earlier scene.

******** Sparrows (5/14/26) William Beaudine ~ Mary Pickford, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Charlotte Mineau, Spec O'Donnell

Reviewed by MartinHafer8 / 10

Far from perfect, but excellent for its time

This is an odd little film that looks a lot like a re-telling of the first half of another Mary Pickford film, DADDY LONG LEGS combined with the films PAPILLON and NIGHT OF THE HUNTER!! In other words, Mary once again is a poor little orphan who has a heart of gold AND she lives in a gator-infested swamp and ultimately makes her escape with the other orphans from an evil menace.

The film begins at a hellhole in the middle of a swamp. They don't say where it is but it looks a lot like Louisiana or northern Florida. An evil man and woman live there with their evil son and on their farm they have about ten kids (the number changes from time to time) who they work as slaves. Some were entrusted to their care by others--the man and wife claiming they ran a foster home for poor kids. And some others were actually stolen from their parents and brought there! On the farm, the kids are starved, beaten and some even die due to the horrid conditions--during which time, the oldest (Mary Pickford) acts like the mother to the brood and keeps their spirits high. Eventually, though, when Mary learns that the evil man is planning on tossing one of the kids into quicksand to get rid of her, she plans a daring escape with the kids. In the process, they must survive many obstacles to reach safety.

The film is beautifully filmed for a movie from 1926 and the production values are high throughout. However, despite being well-made and interesting, the film is also pretty heavy-handed at times--especially with some of the religious imagery. Back in the twenties, this probably played a lot better than it does now. Today it seems a tad dated because of this. But, considering how entertaining the film STILL is and how well it stacks up against other movies of the day, it does deserve an eight. Not my favorite Pickford film (these would be SUDS, MY BEST GIRL and DADDY LONG LEGS),but well worth seeing.

Reviewed by bkoganbing7 / 10

White version of Uncle Tom's Cabin

According to the film history book on United Artists, Sparrows did not quite as well as expected. I suspect the reason is because Mary Pickford at 33 was getting a little long in the tooth to be believable as an orphan waif. Soon enough her golden curls were shorn and she would finally be taking grown up roles at the end of the silent era.

Sparrows takes a lot from Uncle Tom's Cabin without the racial component. Mary is the oldest of several orphan kids who work just like slaves on the farm of the Simon Legree character Gustav Von Syefertitz who played many villainous roles in silents and his wife Charlotte Mineau who aids and abets her husband's villainy.

Von Seyfertitz is up for all kinds of villainy so when some kidnappers want to stash a baby, rich Roy Stewart's baby he's willing for a cut of the ransom. Later when Stewart agrees to pay the kidnappers come back, but by that time Mary is leading her charges through the swamp to escape as she and the kids have had enough.

Most of the film is a white version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but the ending is out of David Copperfield.

Sparrows is a great example of the art of Mary Pickford and what her appeal was to the movie-going public. She personified goodness and innocence on the screen despite three marriages. Instead of an icy Ohio River, Mary gets to take her brood through the Louisiana swamps with the ever present danger of alligators. I'm sure for 1926 audiences it must have been quite thrilling.

It will still thrill audiences of a new century.

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