The previously thought lost short film that marks the first onscreen credit silent film superstar Mary Pickford would receive will be screened in New Hampshire next week, the first time that the film has been seen by audiences in decades.
The short, the 1911 comedy-drama Their First Misunderstanding, was discovered in a New Hampshire barn seven years ago by a contractor who had been hired to tear down the decaying structure. Checking to see that it was empty before he started, the contractor discovered an ancient film projector and a stack of seven reels of highly volatile nitrate films that weren’t even stored in cans. Of those reels, four, including Their First Misunderstanding, were shorts previously thought to be lost to history. (Another one of those reels contained When Lincoln Paid (1913) directed by Francis Ford, the older brother of legendary director John Ford.)
Although she had become a star almost immediately for D.W. Griffith and the Biograph Co. when she was signed to the company in April of 1909, it was Biograph’s policy that they would not credit the names of their actors led the public to know her only as Little Mary an not Mary Pickford. At the end of 1910, Pickford left Biograph for independent producer Carl Laemmle’s Independent Moving Picture Co.
Their First Misunderstanding was Pickford’s first film for Laemmle, and not only did she co-star with her first husband, Owen Moore, she also also wrote the film’s scenario. Legendary director/producer Thomas Ince, who is thought to have directed the short, also makes a short appearance. Of the 39 films that Pickford made over the nine months she was at IMO, only 13 have survived.
The restored film will screen on October 11 at Keene State College in Keene, NH, with Pickford scholar Christel Schmidt on hand to introduce it. It was Keene State College film program founder Larry Benaquist who was contacted by the contractor who had discovered the abandoned films. Benaquist sent the films to a restoration lab where it was discovered that one of the reels was indeed the lost Pickford short. He then contacted Schmidt, and the film was then donated to the Library of Congress which oversaw a complete restoration of the material. reportedly there are a few moments missing from the short but the story is still easily followable.
Via LA Times, who have a short, 45 second clip from the movie that they don’t supply embed codes for.