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THE HOODLUM (1919)


Guest dredagain
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THE HOODLUM is perhaps one of Mary Pickford's lesser known silent

films, but it's a total delight. And she does not play "little Mary,"

in this one, but plays an older version of her famous and beloved

character.

 

We first see Pickford as Amy Burke, a rich little terror who throws

hysterical fits when she can't have her way. She's maybe 16-ish, in

school, but she drives a car (a "white racer"). Her grandfather (Ralph

Lewis) is planning a trip to Europe but she pitches a fit for some

reason and decides to go live with her father on Craigen Street in New

York City while he finishes up his sociological study for his book.

Snooty Amy has a major culture shock as she adjusts to life in the

slums.

 

So Pickford becomes one of the "gang," learns to fit in, and also

learns through a neighbor (Kenneth Harlan) that her grandfather framed

him and sent him to jail. Of course all wrongs are righted by the end

of the film.

 

Pickford is hilarious as she shoots craps with loaded dice, runs from

the police, dances a wild tango in an alley, and eventually settles the

score between the wronged man (whom she marries) and her grandfather.

 

The film is great looking with a terrific "Craigen Street" set that

includes tenement hallways and stairs, fire escapes, and alleys. The

film is briskly directed by Sidney Franklin and boasts some beautiful

title cards by Ferdinand Pinney Earle, who was the major title card

artist of his time, and whose art sometimes resembles that of Edward

Hopper.

 

But Mary Pickford is center stage here whether she's trashing her

mansion bedroom, driving wildly down country roads, or dancing in an

alley. Aggie Herring, Melvin Messinger, and Max Davidson (as Isaacs)

co-star.

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I don't think Mary Pickford ever gets enough credit for her talent as a comic. Like Marion Davies and her screwball persona, Pickford had a comic persona in her silent films that allowed her to cut loose and do all sorts of unlady-like things. When Pickford played her "rags" characters in films in THE HOODLUM, TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY, SPARROWS, or LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY, she was freed from playing "little Mary" (who could be a real brat) and play her tomboy flip side.

 

In THE HOODLUM, Pickford blends in with her "lower east side" surroundings and wears a hilariously ugly striped dress and a huge-beaded necklace along with her flowered hat. She looks more like a "busker" than a resident of New York, but the effect is funny, especially in contrast to her proper "Amy" outfits. The "tomboy Mary" allows her to chuck rocks, run like the wind, and raise hell.... and she's very funny.

 

There's also a wonderful scene where Pickford gets caught in a driving rain, steals an umbrella and loses it, and then runs into the Kenneth Harlan character. As they stand and argue in the rain, getting soaked, he gallantly offers to walk her home "with the protection of my umbrella." Mary grudgingly agrees and off they walk... but by then the wind has turned his umbrella inside out... but neither of them notice because they are beginning to fall in love. It's a terrific scene and very nicely done as they walk down the sidewalk with his umbrella flapping in the wind and rain.

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