Saturday, January 23, 2016

Jason goes to Niles for a Baby Peggy Benefit Weekend

I'd seen almost all the movies this weekend before. But this was about helping out a wonderful lady, a woman I met at her 90th Birthday party, an excellent writer/Hollywood historian, and the last surviving silent film star. Diana Serra Cary, aka Baby Peggy.

Anyway, I'm not good at writing about how awesome a 97 year old lady is, or the conflict I have about whether I love her more as a 97 year old or as a 2 year old, so let's just get to the movies.

On Saturday Night

PEG O' THE MOUNTED (1924): Here's what I said the last time I saw it:
Peggy is playing beside a mountain cabin in Canada (actually Yosemite) when a wounded, exhausted Mountie shows up. After Peggy nurses him back to health, he explains that he was chasing some moonshiners. So now it's Peggy's job to track them down and bring them to justice.
Yeah, I guess that's technically true. Although I didn't say anything about how funny and cute it was. That's also important.

BABY PEGGY'S 90TH BIRTHDAY NEWSREEL (2009): This is the one movie of the weekend I hadn't seen before. And I was actually in it! Like I said, I first met her at her 90th Birthday. So it was really cool to finally see it! And I hadn't noticed that Vera Iwerebor was there shooting footage for her documentary BABY PEGGY, THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll just say great job by her of getting the footage without being distracting.

CAPTAIN JANUARY (1924): Another one I've seen over and over. Here's what I said the last time:
 I've seen this over and over again (starting with when I first met Diana six years ago at her 90th birthday party.) And it always gets me. The friendship between the Captain and Jeremiah Judkins (Hobart Bosworth.) The nosy busy-bodies trying to take her away. The tragedy, the comedy, and the beautiful ending. This film always gets me, and it's just beautiful. I like to think I would love it even if I wasn't friends with the star.
Well, I'll stick by that, other than failing to explain that "the Captain" is daddy Judkin's nickname for Baby Peggy's character, named after he found her washed up after a shipwreck (he's the lighthouse keeper, and she helps out now.)

On then on Sunday, I worked in the story during the day so I missed the screening of THE FAMILY SECRET (1924.) I had seen it a few times anyway.

But I did stick around for BABY PEGGY, THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Again, I've seen it many times and own the DVD (which includes CAPTAIN JANUARY.) Here's what I said last time:
It's a nice overview of her career, but what makes it interesting is not the Baby Peggy part of her life but the Diana Serra Carey part of her life. See, far from a wonderful blessing, Baby Peggy for most of her life was something of a curse. This is very common for child stars (and Diana has chronicled this in her book Hollywood's Children--available here) She was very aware even at 18 months of age that she was working and the main breadwinner for her family. She lost her childhood (however much her parents insisted that she thought she was just playing make-believe) and her status as the breadwinner caused quite a lot of family tension. And it all became worse when her step-grandfather ran off with all the family's money.
You know...it's actually kind of hard for me to review this. It is, after all, the often sad life story of a woman who is now 93 years old, who I met at her 90th birthday party, and who I now consider a friend. I'm just very happy that her life has turned out well and Baby Peggy is enjoying a rediscovery and revival now.
Well, update 93 to 97. And I'd add that the scene where Diana's sister writes her a thank-you note always brings a tear to my eye. It's a beautiful scene, in a wonderful movie, about an exceptional woman.

Total Running Time: 131 minutes
My Total Minutes: 413,976
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