Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


James M. Barrie's classic children's play about the boy who wouldn't grow up was made ibnto a silent film in 1924 and distributed by Paramount Pictures.  Since this was a time that frw thought movies were worth preserving, full-length copies of Peter Pan were thought lost until a well-preserved copy was found in a vault at Eastman School of Music.  Later, another copy -- this time in 16mm -- was dicovered in the Disney vaults; evidently Disney acquired it when they got the rights to the story in 1938.  A restored copy combining the two films was made in 1994.  New music was commissioned for the film and it made its premiere at the 1996 Pordenone Silent Film Festival.  In 2000, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for presevation in the National Film Registry.

Peter is played by 17-yer-old Betty Bronson, who was personally selected for the role by J. M. Barrie (beating out Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford for the part).  The role of Wendy went to Mary Brian, who was discovered when she was 16 and had entered a Long Beach Beauty Pageant; one of the judges was movie star Esther Ralston, who played Wendy's mother in the film.  (She did not win the beauty contest but instead was interviewed for her role in Peter Pan by director Herbert Brenon.)  Called "The Sweetest Gal in Pictures," Mary was one of the WAMPUS Baby Stras of 1926, along with Mary Astor, Joan Crawford, Delores del Rio, Janet Gaynor, and Faye Wray.

For the villainous side of the film, 6' 4" Scottish actor Ernest Torrence played Captain Hook.  He parlayed a successful career on the New York stage into a long run of Hollywood films, both silents and talkies, almost always playing a villain.  (Among his silent films were The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Ruggles of Red Gap;  his talkies included The New Adventures of Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, Sherlock Holmes [as Moriarty], and I Cover the Waterfront.)  Hook's hapless assistant in villainy, Smee, was played by Edward Kipling, who has only seven credits on IMDb, all in silents from 1922-6 -- beyond that I know nothing about him.

Mentioned should be made of George Ali, who played both Nana the dog and the crocodile.  Ali was a professional animal impersonator and his talents were most often used on the stage.  An expert puppeteer, Ali received acclaim for his abiity to maneuver Nana's mouth and eyes in his sole film credit.  His work in Peter Pan athletic ability -- something that he had in spades; he was 58 when he took the dual roles of canine and reptile. 

Virginia Brown Faire (stage name; I wonder if the surname was pronounced with two syllables) was the fairy Tinkerbelle.  At 15, she was one of four winners of Motion Picture Classics magazine's "Fame and Fortune" contest.  She was a WAMPUS Bby Star in 1923.  Faire appeared in about 75 films between 1920-35.

The Indian princess Tiger Lily was playd by the definitely not American Indian Anna May Wong, an absolute favorite of mine.

As noted above, Peter Pan was directed by Herbert Brendon.  The screen adaptation was written by Willia Goldbeck.


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