Poor Little Peppina (1916)

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In her longest film to date -- 6 reels -- Mary Pickford starred in this well-made drama as an American girl, kidnapped as a baby and raised in Italy by a peasant family. She refuses to marry the husband chosen for her and stows away on a boat to America dressed as a boy. In New York, she falls in with a crowd of Italian gangsters -- the very same gang that had once kidnapped her -- and is caught passing counterfeit bills. In love with the girl, the district attorney (Eugene O'Brien) forces the truth out of the kidnappers, and Peppina is reunited with her American parents. Filmed almost cinema verité in the streets of New York, Poor Little Peppina was the first production in which Pickford had a financial interest beyond her ever skyrocketing salary. It was a major success despite the star's antipathy toward director Sidney Olcott. "We got through Poor Little Peppina all right, but only because I bit my lip and did as I was told," she later stated. "But I resolved I would never again work with Olcott." The film's most talked about scene came early on in the story when Jack Pickford, playing Mary's foster brother, cuts her (fake) curls in order for her to believably impersonate a boy. Pickford's much ballyhooed tresses almost took on a life of their own, and audiences were audibly shocked when Jack appeared to go at them with a vengeance.