Mary Pickford Foundation to Debut Musical Score for the Silent Film, ‘The Poor Little Rich Girl’
The Mary Pickford Foundation is giving a generous gift to students in Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County community: a premiere at the Music Center at Strathmore of Philip Carli’s new musical score for Mary Pickford’s 1917 silent film, The Poor Little Rich Girl. The live event on Tuesday, May 19, 2009, will be performed twice, once in the morning at 10:45 a.m. for students from several Montgomery County middle schools, and again in the evening at 8:00, when it will be offered free to the public. The score will be performed by Strathmore’s ensemble-in-residence, the National Philharmonic, under the baton of Hugh Munro Neely. This special presentation, designed for families and film lovers of all ages, celebrates the 100th anniversary of Pickford’s first appearance as an actress on screen in May of 1909.
Students attending the morning performance will come from A. Mario Loiederman Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Strathmore’s school partner. Also attending will be communication arts and film students from Roberto Clemente and Eastern Middle Schools. In preparation for the concert, students will receive specially designed lessons in film history, Mary Pickford’s legacy, and the emotional elements of musical scoring. These lessons, along with a soon-to-be-released DVD of The Poor Little Rich Girl, will be incorporated into a new Montgomery County Public Schools course elective, Lights, Camera, Film Literacy!
Mary Pickford, known around the world as “America’s Sweetheart,” was the first star of motion pictures, and for much of her screen career, from 1909-33, was considered to be the most famous woman in the world. In addition, she co-founded United Artists, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Motion Picture Relief Fund, an organization to help out-of-work and retired film workers.
The Poor Little Rich Girl, directed by Maurice Tourneur, became Mary Pickford’s biggest hit of the decade. The silent film tells the story of Gwendolyn, the lonely 11-year-old daughter of wealthy, distracted parents, who is cared for by a succession of disinterested servants. Gwen’s rebellious efforts to find playmates, live the life of a normal child, and regain the love of her parents lead to a series of humorous episodes. When an accidental over-medication places Gwen’s life in peril, however, her parents realize they must change their lifestyle in order to give proper attention to what is truly important to their happiness—their daughter. The film was unique because Pickford, who at the time was 25 years old, plays a girl of 11. Various photographic tricks were used to help the actress, who was just five feet tall, appear even smaller. Subsequently, Mary Pickford became most famous for her portrayals of children in several films.
Like most movies produced in this era, The Poor Little Rich Girl is a silent film, and its presentations were always accompanied by live music. Today, many people have the misconception that this accompaniment was provided by a single pianist or organist, but in actuality, first-run presentations were regularly accompanied by a full orchestra. To recreate the experience of a first-run presentation, the Mary Pickford Foundation has commissioned this new original score from composer Philip Carli that will be premiered at the Music Center at Strathmore and performed by the National Philharmonic. The National Philharmonic, led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, is a local orchestra in residence at the Music Center at Strathmore that showcases world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces and monumental choral masterworks. The Philharmonic also offers exceptional educational programs throughout the year and enables families to attend concerts together through its offerings of free tickets to young people 7-17.
Mr. Carli is a specialist in music for silent films, both as a composer and a performer. His scores are typically created in a melodic and harmonic style consistent with the period of the movie’s original release. His previous orchestral scores have included Peter Pan (1924), Captain Salvation (1927), and for the Mary Pickford Foundation, Stella Maris (1918). As a composer and performer, he has recorded piano scores for more than 75 other silent features and shorts.
Conductor Hugh Munro Neely also serves as Curator for the Mary Pickford Foundation and has produced and directed documentary films, including the 1999 Cinemax special, Mary Pickford: A Life on Film. As a musician, he has conducted silent film scores with orchestras such as the Kairos Ensemble in America, the Rousse Philharmonic in Bulgaria, the Moravian Philharmonic in the Czech Republic, and the Orchestra Sinfonica del Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy.
To obtain free general admission tickets to the Mary Pickford event on May 19, 2009, at 8 pm, visit www.strathmore.org or call the Strathmore Ticket Office at 301-581-5100 or come in person to the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD. Ticket holders need to arrive 30 minutes before the event. The Music Center is available by Metro by taking the Red Line to the Grosvenor-Strathmore station. Parking is located in the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Garage off Tuckerman Lane.