Sparrows

Overview

Sparrows, Mary Pickford's 1926 release, superbly combines the two elements--sentiment and adventure--that characterized Pickford's best work. At first glance, the film seems to be a horror picture, as satanic potato farmer Grimes (Gustav Von Seyfertitz) crushes a child's doll with his thumb and forefinger and tosses the plaything into the dismal swamps surrounding his lands. We learn that Grimes has been exploiting the children from a local orphanage, forcing them to work his farm day and night. Though collecting...
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Overview

Sparrows, Mary Pickford's 1926 release, superbly combines the two elements--sentiment and adventure--that characterized Pickford's best work. At first glance, the film seems to be a horror picture, as satanic potato farmer Grimes (Gustav Von Seyfertitz) crushes a child's doll with his thumb and forefinger and tosses the plaything into the dismal swamps surrounding his lands. We learn that Grimes has been exploiting the children from a local orphanage, forcing them to work his farm day and night. Though collecting a hefty maintenance pay for the orphans, Grimes dresses them in rags and feeds them a starvation diet. Happily, Mary Pickford, the oldest of the orphans, has enough gumption to stand up to Grimes and prohibit him from inflicting any further atrocities. The plot thickens when a kidnaped child is left in Grimes' care in exchange for a generous portion of the ransom money. Mary rescues the abducted child, as well as all the other orphans, by leading them through the alligator-infested and quicksand-festooned swamp--a truly frightening sequence, made even more so by the use of real gators. Sparrows falters only in those scenes where Pickford, with genuine but somewhat misguided piety, "converses" with the Almighty, and in the final motorboat-chase sequence, which seems prolonged (and unnecessary!) after that heart-pounding swamp escape.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Mary Pickford was the queen of the American silent screen, and one of her later classics is Sparrows. Once again, Pickford plays half her age, this time as a teenaged orphan living in a hellish swamp, the prisoner of a vicious farmer. Surprisingly brutal for its time, especially in its depiction of cruelty to children, the impact of Sparrrows is made all the more effective by the beautifully dark and grim photography (by three masters of the camera). No attempt is made to produce picturesque scenes; instead, the director and cinematographers wisely opt for an almost horror-film effect, a depiction of the deadly swamp that one would more expect to see in a 1930s monster movie rather than a 1920s Mary Pickford melodrama. Equally important to the film's success are the incredible sets by Harry Oliver. Filled with quicksand and nasty alligators, the swamp and farm look terrifying, and especially dramatic is the sequence where Pickford leads the children on a great escape through the swamp past the alligators (according to one interview with Pickford, this was no special effect and was quite a dangerous scene to shoot). Pickford, in a wonderfully over-the-top performance, displays why she is an icon of the era; Gustav Von Seyffertitz makes for a very hissable villain; and the children look believably like scruffier versions of the Little Rascals.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/21/1999
  • UPC: 014381595826
  • Original Release: 1926
  • Rating:

  • Source: Image Entertainment
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Black & White / Dolby 5.1 / Mono
  • Sound: Dolby Digital, monaural
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:49:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Mary Pickford Mama Mollie
Gustav von Seyffertitz Grimes
Roy Stewart Richard Wayne
Mary Louise Miller Doris Wayne
Charlotte Mineau Mrs. Grimes
Spec O'Donnell Ambrose Grimes
Lloyd Whitlock Bailey
A.L. Schaeffer Bailey's Confederate
Mark Hamilton Hog Buyer
Monty O'Grady Splutters
Mary McLane Sparrow
Billy Butts Sparrow
Jack Levine A Sparrow
Seesel Ann Johnson Sparrow
Milton Berle
Muriel McCormac Sparrow
Earle Browne
Technical Credits
William Beaudine Director
Winifred Dunn Screenwriter
Hal Mohr Cinematographer
Harry Oliver Art Director, Set Decoration/Design
Mary Pickford Producer
Charles Rosher Sr. Cinematographer
Karl Struss Cinematographer
C. Gardner Sullivan Screenwriter
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Scene Index

Side #1
0. Sparrows
1. Sparrows [3:25]
2. Mr. Grimes [4:03]
3. Living on a Prayer [10:49]
4. The Bully [4:58]
5. Blessed Are the Tongue-TiedChapter 5 [4:58]
6. The Potato Swiper [3:38]
7. Feast and Famine [2:30]
8. The Abduction [6:26]
9. For Keeps [7:45]
10. The Good Shepard [3:11]
11. Police Headquarters [2:49]
12. A Mother's Love [11:39]
13. Breaking Out [6:21]
14. One Chance in a Million [12:12]
15. Crook and Chase [3:46]
16. Harbor Police [5:10]
17. Out of the Swamps [3:28]
18. Mama Molly [10:05]
19. Wilful Peggy [13:01]
20. The Mender Of The Nets [12:49]
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Menu

Side #1
   Willful Peggy
   The Mender Of The Nets
   Mary Pickford Selected Filmography
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Pickford was the Perfect Mother

    The way Pickford deals with children, it is a shame that she couldn't have any of her own. After seeing this movie, one wishes to adopt a whole gang of them. Here, Mary is in her 30s playing a young girl taking care of orphans, not all of them unwanted. She struggles to survive and keep away from the evil Grimes and his son. The end is adventurous and remarkably done as the actors were never exposed to any dangers with alligators. The film was double exposed. Even through the test of time, this film holds up and audiences get to see Mary Pickford doing what her fans have always loved seeing her do, being a child.

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