Somerville Theatre to show rare silent feature film starring Mary Pickford


Intense melodrama ‘Stella Maris’ (1918) to be screened in 35mm and with live music
SOMERVILLE, Mass.—She was a pioneering figure in early cinema, and all the more remarkable because she worked in an otherwise male-dominated industry.
She was Mary Pickford, one of biggest superstars of the silent film era, as well as a major force behind the cameras during her long career.
Rediscover Pickford’s unique appeal with a screening of ‘Stella Maris’ (1918), a melodrama starring Pickford, which will be shown with live music on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.
The film will be screened using a 35mm print from the U.S. Library of Congress. General admission to program is $15 per person.
Pickford was a screen veteran with nearly 10 years of experience and already a major star when she made ‘Stella Maris,’ a melodrama in which she played two roles.
Stella Maris (Mary Pickford), paralyzed since birth, lives in an opulent mansion and has virtually no knowledge of the outside world. She adores her frequent visitor John Risca (Conway Tearle), a journalist stuck in a loveless marriage to Louise (Marcia Manon). 
After Louise viciously beats her maid Unity Blake (also Pickford), she is jailed, and Unity too falls in love with John. The two young women are hopelessly enamored of the same man, and after Louise’s release something has to give.
‘Stella Maris’ is a classic example of the kind of emotionally charged melodrama that was immensely popular during the silent era, and which still holds up today when screened as intended—with live music, in a theater, and with an audience. 
The film was directed by Marshall Neilan, a frequent Pickford collaborator. 
Pickford, a pioneering film superstar, was a major force in early Hollywood, helping establish the United Artists studio and serving as a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which to this day bestows the annual Oscar awards.
However, Pickford’s films receive comparatively little attention today, in part due to the myth that Pickford often played wholesome and traditional female characters that conformed with society’s expectations at the time.
In truth, Pickford’s best movies often featured her in roles that required her to take action, challenge authority, and play strong roles uncommon for a woman of the era. 
Pickford would go on to make many successful films throughout the silent period, and further cemented her status as Hollywood royalty by marrying swashbuckling adventure icon Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in 1920.
The Pickford program is the latest installment of the Somerville Theatre’s monthly “Silents, Please!” series, designed to showcase the silent era’s best feature films the way they were intended to be shown—using actual 35mm film prints projected on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.
“If you can put all these elements together, the films come to life in a way that’s surprising to modern audiences,” said Ian Judge, the Somerville’s general manager. “Our silent film series has been very successful at attracting an audience, we’re thrilled to continue it on a monthly basis.”
‘Stella Maris’ will be accompanied by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based musician and composer. 
For silent film, Rapsis improvises music in real time, while the film is running, using a digital synthesizer to recreate the “movie score” texture of a full orchestra.
“Making up a score live is a bit of a high-wire act, but it allows me to follow and support the film a lot more effectively than if I was buried in sheet music,” Rapsis said. “Instead, I’m free to follow the film right in the moment. Each time it’s different, which lends a certain energy and immediacy and excitement to the experience.”
‘Stella Maris,’ a silent melodrama starring Mary Pickford, will be screened in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Admission is $15 adults, $12 students/seniors; general admission seating. For more information, call (617) 625-5700 or visit http://www.somervilletheatre.com. For more info on the music, visit http://www.jeffrapsis.com.
CAPTIONS
CAPTION A:

Mary Pickford stars in the melodrama ‘Stella Maris’ (1918), to be screened in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Admission is $15 adults, $12 students/seniors; general admission seating. For more information, call (617) 625-5700 or visit http://www.somervilletheatre.com.
CAPTION B:

Mary Pickford stars in the melodrama ‘Stella Maris’ (1918), to be screened in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Admission is $15 adults, $12 students/seniors; general admission seating. For more information, call (617) 625-5700 or visit http://www.somervilletheatre.com.
CAPTION C:

An original promotional poster for Mary Pickford’s melodrama ‘Stella Maris’ (1918), to be screened in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Admission is $15 adults, $12 students/seniors; general admission seating. For more information, call (617) 625-5700 or visit http://www.somervilletheatre.com.

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