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Little Mary Sunshine. Five-reel drama (1,060m). Copyright, Mar. 30, 1916, Pathé Exchange, Inc., LU7954. Balboa Feature Film Co., Released, Mar. 3, 1916, by Pathé Exchange, Inc.; Gold Rooster Plays. Director: Henry King. Assistant Director: Alden Willey. Scenario: Dan F. Whitcomb. Cameraman: Harry W. Gerstad. Cast: Baby Marie Osborne (Mary), Henry King (Bob Daley), Marguerite Nichols (Sylvia Sanford), Andrew Arbuckle (Bob’s father), Mollie McConnell (Bob’s mother), Pete (trained bear).
Commentary:The French title for this film is Un Joli rayon de soleil. According to De Pathé Frères à Pathé Cinéma, this movie was reviewed in Bulletin Pathé, New York, No. 9, Mar. 3, 1916, and the film was announced in Ciné-Journal, No. 376/72, Oct. 28, 1916. In France, this film was shown at the Omnia Pathé, Paris, Nov. 24-30, 1916 (88).
This film is among the eight produced at Balboa Studios with Baby Marie. Little Mary Sunshine introduced into cinema a tiny tot as the lead in a feature film. In fact, this movie started a world-wide propaganda for promoting better films for children, and this photoplay was used as an example, promoted by many groups, including the women’s clubs of America. Most importantly, the “Mary Sunshine” series at Balboa became the forerunner of the wholesome “family” films that would follow, with tiny tots like Jackie Coogan, Baby Peggy, and Shirley Temple—all of whom would also share their leading rôles with adult actors. This movie not only launched Baby Marie into global stardom, it also broke all records for five-reel photoplays. Pathé immediately contracted with Balboa to do five more movies with Baby Marie in the leading rôle, with Henry King directing: Sunshine and Shadows, Joy and the Dragon (known in the U.K. as A Little Ray of Sunshine), Twin Kiddies, Told at Midnight, and Sunshine and Gold. In addition, the Little Mary Sunshine series would make Henry King world-famous as a director.
Summary: Three-year old Mary is left motherless after her drunk and penniless father beats his wife dead and walks out on his little girl. In a parallel story of another drinking problem, from the other side of the tracks, the viewer witnesses how the handsome and elegant Bob Daley also lets alcohol come between him and his fiancée. Sylvia, in disgust at Bob’s drinking, returns her engagement ring, before she begins to pine over her tremendous feelings of loss. Returning to little Mary, the viewer sees her climb into Bob’s hired car just before Bob is seated in back behind the chauffeur. Bob discovers the little girl under a blanket on the floor of the car and decides to take her home with him. Bob and Mary need each other, and Bob’s parents are delighted to see the therapeutic effects of the growing bond between Mary and Bob. Despite his depression and sorrow over Sylvia, Bob manages to laugh, enjoying fully the sunshine of the little girl’s indomitable courage and bubbly personality. In addition, Bob’s parental responsibilities leave him no time for drinking, though he too, like Sylvia, is pining over the loss of his wedding pledge. Eventually, as Mary and Bob become more attached to each other, and as Bob’s rehabilitation proves complete, Bob’s father invites Sylvia over to meet the “new woman” in Bob’s life. Little does Sylvia know that the new woman is only three years old. During her clandestine visit, Sylvia watches Bob through the curtains refuse a drink, as he tosses the glass into the fireplace, disgusted at the offer made by his father to have a cocktail. When Sylvia also observes how tenderly Bob cares for Mary, she is convinced that it is time for reconciliation. The three come together, ready and eager to form a loving family.
American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States. Vol. 1, Feature Films, 1911-1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
Bousquet, Henri. De Pathé Frères à Pathé Cinéma:Catalogue 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918. Paris:Édition Henri Bousquet, 1999.
Jura, Jean-Jacques and Rodney Norman Bardin II. Balboa Films: A History and Filmography of the Silent Film Studio. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1999.