100 years later, ‘Stella Maris’ sees new life

  • The film Stella Maris starring Mary Pickford will be screened at the Historical Society of Cheshire County 100 years after it played at the Scenic Theater in Keene. Courtesy

Published: 6/13/2018 1:19:24 PM

As part of its New Hampshire Film Series, the Historical Society of Cheshire County is screening a film that played 100 years ago at the Scenic Theater in Keene. On Wednesday, June 20 at 7 p.m., the Historical Society will show the film Stella Maris from 1918 with Mary Pickford.

In one of her very best films, Mary Pickford plays two roles as the title character and her orphan servant. Without makeup, Pickford makes herself nearly unrecognizable as Unity Blake, the wealthy Stella Maris’s impoverished companion. Stella is a rich young woman, paralyzed her entire life, cared for by a wealthy family who attempt to shield her from the evils of the world. By contrast, Unity is a poor orphan, seeking a mother figure, who is adopted by a woman who treats her savagely. Both Stella and Unity fall in love with the same man. This is a finely nuanced film which uses the framework of melodrama to display some unforgettable acting.

Discussion of the film will be facilitated by Larry Benaquist – filmmaker, retired film professor, and founder of the Keene State College film program.

The script was written by Frances Marion, based on a novel by William J. Locke. Marion, one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, wrote nearly two hundred scripts, including such classics as Dinner at Eight. The script seems to have been influenced by the World War which was then raging; America had entered the war the year before, and by May 1918, more than a million American soldiers would have landed in Europe. Stella Maris was directed by Marshall Neilan, who directed five films which starred Pickford, and which were scripted by Marion.

The Historical Society of Cheshire County is located at 246 Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire. The organization has been collecting, preserving, and communicating the history of Cheshire County for 91 years. The Society puts on about 150 programs each year to help people of all ages “find their place in history.” Visit hsccnh.org or call (603) 352.1895.

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