Mary Pickford is best known as an actress during the silent film era of Hollywood, co-founder of United Artists, and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences, and now the world will soon be able to see a film of her’s that was thought to be lost forever.
The film, Their First Misunderstanding, was found in a barn in New Hampshire in 2006 by carpenter Peter Massie.
Massie found the only known copy of the film, along with six other reels, while he was tearing down the barn. The property where the barn was located was once a summer camp for boys. Larry Benaquist, the founder of the film program at Keene State College, where the movie was donated, said, “Apparently it had been a boys’ school — a boys’ camp, and during the summer, they’d set up this 35mm projector and show these ancient films to the boys,”
The 1911 film is currently being restored by a project funded by the Library of Congress and will be shown at Keene State College next month.
Their First Misunderstanding was a huge step for Pickford’s career. It was the first film she wrote and the first film she was given credit for when it came to advertising. Film historian Leonard Maltin said, “And apparently this 1911 film was the first time she received screen billing as Mary Pickford. Well in a very short time that name, Mary Pickford, became world famous.”
The film stars an 18-year-old Pickford with her first husband, Owen Moore, as a young married couple going through their first fight. According to Benaquist, the first minute of the 10-minute comedy-drama was destroyed, but the rest is in very good condition.
Before the release of Their First Misunderstanding, Pickford was known as “Little Mary,” ”The Girl with the Curls” and “The Biograph” girl, but she soon became known as “America’s Sweetheart.”
Pickford founded United Artists with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith in 1919. After starring in 52 feature films and winning two Oscars, Pickford retired from acting in 1933. She continued to produce films for United Artists until she sold her shares for $3 million in 1956. Pickford died of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage on May 29, 1979.
You can see some of Their First Misunderstanding on Keene State College’s film archive here.