Lena and the Geese (1912)
Article 5667 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by D.W. Griffith
Featuring Mary Pickford, J. Jiquel Lanoe, Kate Bruce
What it is: Fairy tale short
A noblewoman gets rid of an inconvenient baby by passing her on to a peasant woman. Then, when on her deathbed, the noblewoman regrets her decision and sends for her now-grown daughter to reinstate her. However, the peasant woman decides to send her own child in place of the adopted one.
Let’s get the fantastic content out of the way first – there is none. However, I can understand why this was classified as a fantasy; it is based on a fairy tale, and in general it is assumed fairy tales are fantasies. It’s just that this particular story has no fantastic touches.
As for the movie itself, for me the most striking thing about it was Mary Pickford’s performance. I would not have noticed had I not been on my recent chronological coverage of fantastic films, but Pickford’s performance seems to take silent film acting to a new level; she seems to be the first actress to really master the art of acting in this medium. As such, this is one of the first silent films in which the acting itself is the main attraction, and it’s easy to see why she became one of the first silent film stars. The acting is what lifts the story, especially during the sequence when Pickford’s character tries to master the alien (to her) art of etiquette. Pickford herself chose the story based on the fairy tale “The Goose Girl”, though I wonder about the retitling, which seems to imply that the geese will play more of a role than they ultimately do.