Mary Pickford wrote and starred in the 1911 film "Their First Misunderstanding." Thought to have been lost, a copy was found at an old New Hampshire summer camp and is being restored.
KEENE, N.H. — The only copy of a 1911 Mary Pickford movie that marked a turning point in the silent film star's career is being restored after its discovery by a carpenter in an old New Hampshire barn.
The Library of Congress is funding a project to restore the film, titled "Their First Misunderstanding," and it will be shown next month at Keene State College, where a retired professor has overseen the restoration.
The film is the first for which Pickford was given credit in the advertising materials. Before that, movie studios didn't want actors to become household names because they'd demand more money, said Pickford scholar Christel Schmidt, editor of "Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies."
Peter Massie, who discovered the film along with six other vintage reels in a barn he was tearing down in 2006, is looking forward to seeing it.
"This is the coolest thing I've ever found on any job," he said.
The property where Massie found the films apparently used to be a summer camp for boys, and the movies were probably shown to entertain the campers, said Larry Benaquist, who founded the film program at Keene State. Massie donated the films to the college, and Benaquist led the effort to identify and restore them.
Pickford, known as "America's Sweetheart," was one of Hollywood's earliest stars. She was a co-founder of the United Artists film studio and helped establish the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She retired from acting in 1933 and died in 1979.
The 10-minute comedy-drama stars Pickford and her first husband, Owen Moore, as newlyweds having their first argument. The first minute or so was destroyed, but the rest was in remarkably good condition, Benaquist said.
He quickly determined that one of the reels was a lost 1913 silent film about Abraham Lincoln. But it took longer to identify the Pickford film because the 35 mm celluloid had stuck to itself.
Pickford had been known only as "Little Mary," ''The Girl with the Curls" and "The Biograph" girl, after her former studio, but that changed after "Their First Misunderstanding," Benaquist said.
"Now she was an actor with clout, and I think she used that to great advantage," he said.
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