Recently I was fortunate enough to locate a lantern slide advertising this title which, as is often the case, echoes the imagery of the advertising poster. Even more fortunate than finding the slide was my good luck in having Charles Morrow agree to share his impressions of the film which survives today only as a 12-minute fragment.
|Coming attraction slide for A Good Little Devil (1914)|
|Poster for A Good Little Devil (1914)|
Several years ago The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York, hosted a festival of restored films featuring Mary Pickford. The 12-minute fragment of A Good Little Devil shown at the festival is apparently all that remains of this intriguing milestone of theatrical and cinematic history. When the full version premiered in March of 1914 it began with a prologue featuring David Belasco himself introducing the show, but unfortunately this footage no longer survives. Interestingly, however, the fragment that remains tells a reasonably complete story in itself, as if someone edited the full-length film into a one-reel 'highlights' version. The plot and character relationships are not entirely clear, but the gist of the piece comes across.
|Prologue from A Good Little Devil - David Belasco (seated) as wraiths of his characters appear via double-exposure. Others in the picture (L to R): Edward Connelly, William Norris (as old woman), Wilda Bennett, Mary Pickford, Ernest Truex.|
The abridged version of A Good Little Devil shown at the festival was greeted by the audience with sympathetic chuckles. I could see why Mary Pickford considered it something of an embarrassment: she was making more sophisticated films than this one at Biograph years earlier. Still, although it was very primitive the movie was rather sweet and Mary's own performance was nothing to be ashamed of. The man in the dog outfit was a real crowd-pleaser, though we all wondered why the old lady was played by an obvious transvestite. In any event, even in its truncated form Edwin S. Porter's A Good Little Devil is an intriguing curio for silent film buffs and kind of a hoot, besides.
--- CHARLES MORROW
Charles Morrow works at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center in NYC. He has written plays and film-related essays, and also contributed several entries to the recently published Broadway: An Encyclopedia of Theater and American Culture. His film reviews appear in IMDb under the Nom de Internet wmorrow59.