special-event-the-abcd-annual-silent-classic-sparrows-mar-5thMary Pickford, the first film actress to achieve international superstardom plays the young girl, Mollie, who has been taken with a number of orphans to work as slaves on the wicked Mr Grimes’s farm – the film was based on news reports of such “farms”. When he also kidnaps a wealthy businessman’s daughter, Doris, Mollie attempts to lead the children, her “sparrows”, to safety and freedom through alligator-infested swamps. These scenes are convincing and harrowing, but Pickford, who was the film’s producer, ensured the children’s safety by allocating one minder per “sparrow”.
Dir: William Beaudine 90 mins USA 1926
Accompanied on piano by Andrew Youdell of the NFT.
7.30 p.m. start at St Nicolas’ Church, Market Place, Abingdon.

Programme Notes

Special Event
USA 1926 90mins

With piano accompaniment by Andrew Youdell

Mr Grimes, his wife and son Ambrose maintain a farm for unwanted children, who are mistreated and starved. Mollie protects them as best she can and rescues a kidnapped child from being thrown into the swamp. She then plans an escape with her band of ‘sparrows’. After miles of dangers through the alligator-ridden swamp, the children find the police trailing Grimes. His wife and son are arrested and in a tense ending, the kidnappers are pursued by motorboat. (Based on American Film Institute summary at

“This powerful Gothic suspense thriller was based on 1920s news reports of real life baby farms. Sparrows‘ elaborate sets and magnificent cinematography create a nightmare world that later inspired [Charles Laughton’s] classic film Night of the Hunter.”
Milestone Films,

The film was restored by the American Film Institute Library of Congress in 2008.

Mollie – Mary Pickford
Mr Grimes – Gustav von Seyffertitz
Dennis Wayne – Roy Stewart
Mrs Grimes – Charlotte Mineau
Ambrose – Spec O’Donnell
Bailey – Lloyd Whitlock

Director – William Beaudine, Tom McNamara (uncredited)
Producer – Mary Pickford
Writer – Winifred Dunn (story)
Adaptation – C Gardner Sullivan
Cinematography – Hal Mohr, Charles Rosher, Karl Struss
Editor – Harold McLernan