Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque
Director: Marshall Neilan
Cast: Mary Pickford, Theodore Roberts, Thomas Meighan, Tully Marshall, Charles Ogle, Monte Blue, Winifred Greenwood, Helen Kelly, Val Paul, William H Brown, John Burton, Charles A Post, Guy Oliver, Steve Murphy, Harry L Rattenberry, Charles Stevens
M’Liss is a 1918 American silent film directed by Marshall Neilan, written by Frances Marion and based on a Bret Harte story. The film was made previously in 1915 and was remade again in 1922 as The Girl Who Ran Wild, starring Gladys Walton. Another same-titled remake was released in 1936, starring Anne Shirley.
The film takes place in the mining town of Red Gulch in the High Sierra. M’Liss (Mary Pickford) is one of the inhabitants whose father “Bummer” (Theodore Roberts) lost his fortune in the gold mines. Now his only investment, which pays a dividend, is his chicken Hildegarde. M’Liss regards herself as a crook and robs Yuba Bill’s stage coach. Yuba, however, is fascinated by the young lady and does not mind.
M’Liss is the only person in Bummer’s life, since his brother Jonathan, a wealthy pioneer, lives in San Francisco. One day, Jonathan turns his face toward the Sunset Trail. Clara Peterson (Winifred Goodwin) has been his nurse for over three years and her brother Jim (Val Paul) finds out they will receive $500 each for their services after his death. He is outraged they will get only that small amount of money.
When M’Liss is informed, she is crushed. She is invited to visit the murderer in jail and is shocked to find out it’s Charles. Three weeks later, a murder trial starts. M’Liss is the only one believing in Charles’ innocence. His wife Clara reaches town to visit him, only to find out he died. M’Liss refuses to believe she is her mother. Finally, Charles is sent to jail for 60 years. M’Liss helps him escape, but the police follow him. M’Liss witnesses them shooting Charles, but does not know they went after the wrong guy and actually shot Jim. Jim and Mexican Joe, the help of the sheriff, admit they killed Bummer for his will. The fortune is now send to M’Liss and a hidden Charles is set free and reunites with M’Liss.
- Mary Pickford as Melissa ‘M’liss’ Smith
- Theodore Roberts as John Benson “Bummer” Smith
- Thomas Meighan as Charles Gray
- Tully Marshall as Judge Joshua McSnagley
- Charles Ogle as Yuba Bill
- Monte Blue as Mexican Joe Dominguez
- Winifred Greenwood as Clara Peterson
- Helen Kelly as Clytemnestra Veronica McSnagley
- Val Paul as Jim Peterson
- William H. Brown as Sheriff Sandy Waddles
- John Burton as Parson Bean
- Charles A. Post as Butch Saunders
- Guy Oliver as Snakebit Saunders
Like many American films of the time, M’Liss was subject to cuts by city and state film censorship boards. For example, the Chicago Board of Censors required cuts, in Reel 5, of the intertitle “Say, sheriff, how about a little necktie party” and the scene of the sheriff looking up tree and dropping rope.
- The New York Times Review Remakes
- Progressive Silent Film List: M’Liss at silentera.com
- “Official Cut-Outs by the Chicago Board of Censors”. Exhibitors Herald. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. 6 (21): 31. May 18, 1918.