The first production of Tess of the Storm Country was directed by Edwin S. Porter, the director of The Great Train Robbery in 1903 and now vice-president of Famous Players. According to Robert Windeler's biography of Mary, the first version of Tess was financed by Adolph Zukor by pawning his wife's diamond necklace and borrowing on his life insurance. The film's success saved Famous Players Studio, and as a reward Mary's salary was doubled to $2,000 per week. The Making of "Tess"

Of all the films that I have made I do not believe that there is one that is even halfway right or one that I would care to have brought out twenty years from now except as a curiosity, as a family album might be brought out. Tess of the Storm Country was the only picture I ever wanted to do over. I always liked the character.

In the nine years that elapsed between the two productions of Tess, not only had great improvements been made in the mechanical processes, but the whole industry was on a different basis. The audiences had become more appreciative and certainly wider. There were changes, too, in me, I like to think. The second production of Tess is not only better lighted, better photographed and better acted, but it is a better production.

And it ought to be. The first production cost ten thousand dollars to take, including my salary. The second, not counting my salary, cost over four hundred thousand dollars to film. In the first sum are included the studio rent, my mother's and my fares from New York to California, and also those of the director and his secretary. Against the second cost the only item which actually does not show in the picture is the fifty thousand dollars which I paid to the Famous Players Company for the privilege of refilming the story. The old version took four weeks, including bad weather; the new one took seventeen weeks to make, which does not include the time spent in preparing the story or editing the film after it was taken.

In the first picture we all helped to decorate the sets. I brought my own toilet articles from the hotel to put upon the dresser in Teola's bedroom. We used no artificial light, and since we were working in a back yard of a house we could not photograph before ten o'clock in the morning because the fence on one side cut off the light, or after four in the afternoon because the light on the other side was cut off. One generator truck used in the new version of Tess cost thirty thousand dollars, but it enabled us to get some wonderful pictures, avoiding the mottled light of daytime in the woods. These were all taken after sundown.

The scene of Tess of the Storm Country is near Ithaca, New York, on the shore of the Cayuga Lake. In the first version we used the ocean, and a Japanese fishing village, which was standing nine years ago at Santa Monica, became the squatters' cabins that are so annoying to the deacon who lived on the hilltop. For the second version we erected a village at Chatsworth reservoir some thirty miles back in the hills. The houses were assembled in all corners and moved by truck to the location. The first village we got for nothing, the second cost fifteen thousand dollars to put up.

I have given these figures to show the growth and changes that have come about in nine years, and not because I believe that mere money spending will make a better picture. The first version was an excellent picture for the year nineteen-fourteen when the pictures were really in their infancy.

Mary retired in 1933 after the failure of her Frank Borzage-directed film, Secrets. "I knew it was time to retire...I wanted to stop before I was asked to stop."






When I Retire

The work of the day is now at an end, and we have just finished twenty scenes and I am back in my dressing-room bungalow. This serves as a retreat for me where I can be by myself and try to forget temporarily all the problems of motion-picture production which I have been writing about. Planning and building this bungalow was a very pleasant relaxation. It turned out to be far more than the dressing room I had in mind when I started, and sometimes it makes me feel dreadfully extravagant. But, after all, the greatest part of my life is spent here, so why shouldn't it be attractive?

When I retire – though I don't know when that will be, and I am secretly hoping the house will fall to pieces of old age before this happens – I will have the bungalow moved to Beverly. It was built with this intention and can easily be put on rollers and moved to whatever location I choose.

My Own Story, by Mary Pickford, is from The Ladies' Home Journal, September 1923.

Additional sources: Eyman, Scott: Mary Pickford: From Here to Hollywood; Windeler, Robert: Sweetheart: The Story of Mary Pickford.


Whitfield, Eileen
Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood

Brownlow, Kevin
Mary Pickford Rediscovered: Rare Pictures of a Hollywood Legend

Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley (VHS)
Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley (DVD)
Daddy Long-Legs (VHS)
Daddy Long-Legs (DVD)
My Best Girl (VHS)
My Best Girl (DVD)
Sparrows (VHS)
Stella Maris (VHS)
Tess of the Storm Country (1922) (VHS)
Tess of the Storm Country (1922) (DVD)


Under the Curls, A Determined Mind

"Mary Pickford Returns"
A good essay on her films, her life, and her achievements, from The World & I magazine.

Mary Pickford
Elaina B. Archer on Mary Pickford - The Lybarger Links Interview. An interview with the restorer of 6 of Mary's films for video.

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