Classic Film Guide

Daddy-Long-Legs (1919) - full review!

Mary Pickford plays an orphan girl. So what's new in this drama? Well, of course she's the one that leads and/or cares for the other children in the orphanage which is run by a tyrant (Milla Davenport) while its unawares board members eat high on the hog with the public money. So what's new in this Mary Pickford drama? Well, there's a rich girl (Fay Lemport) who's raised in luxury with all the comforts of home that provides a stark contrast to Pickford's orphan. So what's new in this Pickford drama? It's not so much that anything is new in this one (in fact, actually, this was probably one of the first of this type that was later copied - e.g. in Sparrows (1926), among others - ad nauseam to give the public what it wanted from her throughout her career) as much as it is the quality of its execution and the mysterious benefactor angle.

Jerusha Abbott (Pickford), so named by a conveniently seen gravestone and a random page turned in the phonebook, grows up to be the "protector of the small" other orphans in the facility. Her care for the others is recognized by one of the wiser trustees (Percy Haswell) who then selects Jerusha as the recipient of a wealthy benefactor's charity - he offers to pay for her college education. The benefactor chooses to remain anonymous, but insists on written accounts from "Judy" about her experiences. Without knowing his name, she dubs him "Daddy Long Legs" because of an image she believes she saw of him though a translucent window. Living at a better place now, she meets, and is then courted by, a "goofy" young lad named Jimmie McBride (Marshall Neilan, this film's director!). She also spends time with her roommate's Uncle (Mahlon Hamilton), an older gentleman whom she doesn't know is also her benefactor. As his interest in her turns to love, she doesn't take him seriously enough to allow their relationship to become more than just friends.

*** SPOILER ***

Eventually, her benefactor reveals who he is and, though she initially exhibits disdain (for his lechery?), she has a change of heart.

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