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South West Silents Presents: The Wareham Silent Film Weekender

Updated: Nov 4, 2023


The Weekender:

South West Silents is thrilled to announce our very first ever Silent Film Weekender. A chance to gather and celebrate everything silent film under one roof with beautiful new restorations and with some incredible live music. Situated at the magnificent Rex Cinema in the heart of the stunning town of Wareham, we can't think of a better place to host our first ever silent film festival. Thanks to its picturesque interiors and fabulous heritage, The Rex is perfect to showcase the best of the silent era.


This first edition of the Wareham Silent Film Weekender highlights two key figures in the early history of Hollywood. In fact, the pair ended up becoming Hollywood's first major couple. Mary Pickford (1892-1979) and Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) would both become powerhouses in their own right and yet, became incredibly important for both their careers.


The line-up for both Pickford and Fairbanks highlights their early years and gives us a chance to see how both artists developed their crafts over the course of a decade or so. We start and end both strands with key titles in their filmography.


Thanks to our friends at the Mary Pickford Foundation we have been allowed exclusive access to the recent restorations that the Foundation have been working on over the past few years and given the Wareham Silent Film Weekender SIX UK Premieres!


With the Rex as a backdrop as well as the great live music we will have the first Wareham Silent Film Weekender will be an fantastic experience for everyone!


The Wareham Silent Film Weekender is supported by BFI Film Audience Network.


The Dates: Friday 1st December - Sunday 3rd December 2023

The Weekender Lineup:

Friday 1st December:

7:30pm: The Mark of Zorro (1920)

Director Fred Niblo

Starring Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite De La Motte, Noah Beery, Robert McKim

Music: Live Piano Accompaniment by Meg Morley


Marking the start of the Wareham Silent Film Weekender, South West Silents and The Rex Cinema open with an all-time classic from the silent era.


Classed as the world’s first action adventure film, Fred Niblo’s The Mark of Zorro (1920) not only gave birth to a genre but established a new persona for star Douglas Fairbanks. Just like Fairbank’s masked hero the film catapulted him from standard film actor to one of Hollywood’s first superstars. Elements of the film and Fairbanks’ portrayal would later inspire Bob Kane’s most famous of heroes, Batman.


Set in Spanish California, Fairbanks portrays Don Diego Vega, a comically effete young nobleman with a taste for tasselled sombreros and juvenile silk-hanky magic tricks. But when danger calls, Diego swathes himself in black, straps on a well-honed sword and storms the countryside as the mysterious Zorro. Slicing his initial into the faces of the “sentinels of oppression” and pausing only to boldly romance the woman (Marguerite De La Motte) to whom his shy alter-ego can hardly summon the courage to speak.


The Mark of Zorro is an uplifting escape adventure with the thrills which would be copied the world over throughout the rest of the history of cinema.


Live musical accompaniment by Meg Morley. Restoration from Film Preservation Associate France, Paris.

Saturday 2nd December:

10:00am: Wild and Woolly (1917)

Director: John Emerson

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Eileen Percy, Walter Bytell and Sam De Grasse

Music: Live Piano Accompaniment by Meg Morley


Douglas Fairbanks stars as Jeff Hillington, the son of railroad magnate who only dreams of the plains and adventures of the American wild west. Unknown to Hillington, the town’s ‘wild’ days are long gone and it is an orderly and civilized place now. The townsmen, not wanting to lose a rich potential resident, contrive to make over the town to suit the young man’s fantasy.


In this great comedy, written by the fantastic Anita Loos, Wild and Wolly showcases the many talents of Fairbanks as an action star as well as a comedy actor.


Live musical accompaniment by Meg Morley. Restoration from Film Preservation Associate France, Paris.

12:00pm: Pickford Biograph Shorts


By signing a contract with the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in April 1909, Mary Pickford started her rise to stardom on the cinema screen. The selection starts with one film from 1909 and then the rest from 1912 and highlights key characteristic elements of Pickford’s on screen persona from the very beginning. All shorts found in this selection are directed by Biograph regular D.W.Griffith. Titles to be announced very soon.


Restorations and recorded scores courtesy of The Mary Pickford Foundation.

2:00pm: Fanchon, the Cricket (1915): UK Premiere

Director: James Kirkwood

Starring: Jack Standing, Lottie Pickford, Gertrude Norman and Jack Pickford


Thought lost for decades, Fanchon the Cricket based on an ‘adult fairy tale’ by George Sand, stars Mary Pickford as the title character, a strong-willed waif ostracized by ‘acceptable society’ until she shows them the power of love and understanding.


A natural, sensual and uninhibited Pickford breaks through today’s stereotype of her as ‘the girl with the curls’. Fanchon the Cricket is the only surviving film in which both Jack and Lottie Pickford appear with their sister.


Based on the 1849 novel La Petite Fadette by George Sand and directed by one of Mary Pickford’s favourite directors, the Wareham Silent Film Weekender are proud to present this UK Premiere of the new restoration and recorded score by the Mary Pickford Foundation.

5:30pm: Picture in the Papers (1916) + Joanna Enlists (1918): UK Premiere

A chance to see both Douglas Fairbanks and Mark Pickford in one sitting with these two classic comedy shorts.


Picture in the Papers (1916): Made the year after Fairbanks left Broadway for the cinema. In his third ever film, Picture in the Papers is a perfect example of Fairbank’s early onscreen comedy persona which was also infused with breakneck action. The story is set around Fairbanks’ Pete Prindle who, if anything, needs to get his ‘Picture in the Papers’ to win the hand of his love (Loretta Blake). The first film scenario written for Douglas Fairbanks by Anita Loos (see Saturday morning’s 1917 Wild and Woolly), Picture in the Papers also includes a rare early screen appearance of later star and director Erich von Stroheim. A real chance to see this rare gem on the big screen with live musical accompaniment by Meg Morley.


Joanna Enlists (1918): Directed by William Desmond Taylor and adapted by Pickford regular Frances Marion. This 1918 five reel First World War melodrama sees Mary Pickford play Johanna Renssaller who dreams of a different life away from her father’s farm. However, all things change when a training regiment of American soldiers arrive to camp next door to the farm. With the title card “Oh, Lordy — when I prayed for a man — WHY did you send me a thousand?” trouble not only on the farm, but also in the training camp as well. The Wareham Silent Film Weekender is proud to present the UK Premiere of this beautifully shot film by cinematographer Charles Rosher (Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Annie Get Your Gun) with a special recorded score.


Restorations courtesy of Film Preservation Associate France, Paris and The Mary Pickford Foundation.

8:15pm: Stella Maris (1918): UK Premiere

Director: Marshall Neilan

Starring: Ida Waterman, Herbert Standing, Conway Tearle and Marcia Manon.


Mary Pickford plays dual roles in this major advancement in filmmaking and a major change from anything the star had done before. Stella Maris tells the story of two, very different young women. A rich and disabled Stella Maris and Unity Blake, a deformed and abused orphan.


Director, Marshall Neilan, and cinematographer Walter Stradling created some trick photography for Mary to play both roles, using double exposure photography and complex editing which made it possible to present both characters on screen simultaneously.


A true masterclass on acting and directing The Wareham Silent Film Weekender are proud to present this UK Premiere of the new restoration and recorded score by the Mary Pickford Foundation.

Sunday 3rd December:

10:00am: Little Annie Rooney (1925): UK Premiere

Director: William Beaudine

Starring: Mary Pickford, William Haines, Walter James, Gordon Griffith


Mary Pickford plays a ‘tomboy of the tenements’ in this comedy drama, which she also wrote.


Filmed over ten weeks, Little Annie Rooney was shot entirely on a set created by art director John D. Schulze at the Pickford Fairbanks Studio. Co-starring William Haines and a wide-ranging, multi-ethnic cast and directed by William Beaudine, Little Annie Rooney met with huge critical and commercial success upon its original release. So much in fact that star and director would join forces again within a year to make the masterpiece that is Sparrows (to be screened later this evening).


If anything, Little Annie Rooney proved fans and critics alike wanted the then-33-year-old Mary to stay a child forever.


The Wareham Silent Film Weekender are proud to present this UK Premiere of the new restoration and recorded score by the Mary Pickford Foundation.

11:30am: When the Clouds Role By (1919)

Director: Victor Fleming

Starring: Kathleen Clifford, Frank Campeau, Ralph Lewis


Fairbanks plays Daniel Boone Brown, a superstitious but ambitious young New Yorker, who is a pleasure seeking playboy carousing around the city without a care in the world. All this changes when Brown becomes the guinea pig for a series of experiments at the hands of a sadistic psychiatrist. Through various means of control, the mad scientist drives Brown to think he’s losing his mind.


Directed by Victor Fleming (The Wizard of Oz) this only recently found feature could well be the best of Fairbanks’ contemporary comedies. Laced with spectacular enthusiasm thanks to Fairbanks wit and energy, When the Clouds Role By is ripe to be rediscovered by new audiences.


2:00pm: Fairbanks Short Double Bill

A chance to see two classic Fairbanks westerns and both directed by pioneering film director Allan Dwan.


Restorations courtesy of Film Preservation Associate France, Paris, Live Musical accompaniment by Dominic Irving.


5:30pm: Sparrows (1926): UK Premiere

Director: William Beaudine

Starring: Mary Pickford, Roy Stewart and Gustav von Seyffertitz


Produced by Pickford and directed by William Beaudine (see Little Annie Rooney on Sunday morning) Sparrows is the supreme calling card for Mary Pickford.


Sparrows Molly (Pickford) is the eldest child of a group of orphans being used as slaves on a farm hidden deep in a swamp, must rescue the others when their cruel master decides that one of them will be disposed of.


Classed as a masterpiece when originally released, Sparrows (1926) signifies everything that Mary Pickford had tried to achieve when she first stepped in front of the camera in 1909. The film’s story will keep you laughing, but also sobbing, till the very end.


A breath-taking achievement which not only established Mary Pickford as one of the icons of early Hollywood, but one of first legends of cinema.


The Wareham Silent Film Weekender are proud to present this UK Premiere of the new restoration and recorded score by the Mary Pickford Foundation which concludes this years strand looking at the work of Mary Pickford.

8:15pm: Don Q, Son of Zorro (1925)

Director: Donald Crisp

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Astor, Jack McDonald, Donald Crisp and Lizzie Pickford


In this sequel to his 1920 swashbuckling box office hit The Mark of Zorro, Douglas Fairbanks not only reprises his role of Zorro but also takes on the role of Zorro’s son Don Cesar de Vega.


Don Cesar (Fairbanks) crosses swords with a vicious officer of the Queen’s Guard and steals the affection of a young heiress. When the officer frames the young upstart for murder, Don Cesar must sacrifice everything he holds dear to survive.


If anything, Don Q, Son Zorro surpasses the excitement and action of The Mark of Zorro and confirmed Douglas Fairbanks as one of the true greats of the first classic era of Hollywood.


Live musical accompaniment by Meg Morley. Restoration from Film Preservation Associate France, Paris.


The Music:

Meg Morley is an Australian-born pianist, composer and improviser who creates music within diverse artistic genres (silent film, contemporary dance and ballet, solo piano, contemporary jazz ensembles and electronic music).


Classically trained from the age of two, she has worked extensively with various dance companies (English National Ballet, Rambert Company, Matthew Bourne and Pina Bausch) and performs and composes for international silent film festivals, institutions and film organisations (Il Cinema Ritrovato, British Film Institute, Borderlines Film Festival, Nederlands Silent Film Festival and South West Silents).

The Venue: The Rex Cinema, Wareham:

The Rex, (formally The Empire Cinema) opened in the Oddfellows Hall in 1920 and showed silent films throughout the decade. The cinema was taken over in 1924 by brother and sister George and Dorothea Tearreau.


George ran the projection whilst Dorothea ran the box office and often played the piano. The had long blonde ringlets before the fashion for bobbing hair, and people called her ‘Wareham’s Mary Pickford’!


“Talkies” arrived in the early 30’s and the cinema was renamed The Rex in 1963. It was taken over by the Charity in 2009 and is now run by some 40 enthusiastic trained volunteers and a small staff.












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