Jun 212016
 

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On this date in 1986 Deborah Blincoe and I were married. This would have been our 30th anniversary, therefore. Ever since she died (2007) I’ve marked the date in a small way, but this year seems like a good time to do something more. Before I talk about our wedding in particular let me say a little about weddings in general to set the context.

As an anthropologist I’ve lectured and written about marriage and the family a great deal. Weddings are classic rites of passage which have been studied intensively by anthropologists, but I’ve always argued that classic analysis misses the mark in an important way. I have tried to make the case that in LAW, strictly speaking, both the groom and the bride are changing their status, but in the classic Western wedding ceremony the ritual and symbols focus almost exclusively on the woman and her changes, and not the man. Broken down into simple components, the traditional Western wedding symbolizes the passage of a woman from one man’s sphere to another’s, and that was the economic and social reality for centuries – and still lingers in the ceremony even though realities have changed.

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The traditional Church of England wedding takes place in the bride’s home town. Her father walks her down the aisle to the waiting groom and “gives her away” to join the groom, then steps back. That ought to be enough to convince you, but there’s more. She wears white, the universal symbol of transition and purity; he does not. Upon marriage her last name changes from her father’s to her husband’s – his does not change. Furthermore she changes from Miss to Mrs. He’s Mr all along. At one time he did not usually wear a wedding ring either, but she did. In the traditional Anglican vows he promises to love and honor her, but she promises to love, honor AND obey him.  Get the point?

A lot has changed, of course, but remnants persist. Ms has generally replaced Miss/Mrs in many circles, both man and woman usually wear rings, and last names are more fluid. Some women retain their unmarried names (as my wife did), and some women hyphenate their unmarried names with their married names. In the latter case it’s still uneven. The man does not change his name at all, and the woman subordinates her unmarried name to her married name.We both retained our unmarried names, and hyphenated them for our son. But . . . my name is first and hers is last — Forrest-Blincoe. We liked the sound better than the other way around.

Whilst  we are on the subject, “maiden name” is a fraught term. The word “maiden” is an old synonym for “virgin” as it is also in the term “maiden aunt.” The assumption is that a woman is a virgin until she marries. I don’t use the term at all. I find it offensive. Likewise men don’t have maiden names, so there’s no veiled presumption that he is a virgin before marriage.

Despite changes, old parts persist. It’s still common to marry in the woman’s home town, she still wears white, and she is usually walked down the aisle by her father and “given away” with a physical gesture even if not a verbal one. The man’s symbolic role as recipient of the woman is still the same. There is no symmetric gesture of him being given away by his mother. He stands alone and receives his bride.

Whilst I’m on the subject let me have a little rant about vows. In the modern era couples often want to write their own vows. When I was an active pastor I discouraged this practice. Part of the point of ritual is for it to be familiar. The couple getting married may be the focus, but the whole community participates, and not just in a passive way. The whole community is witnessing the event, especially the vows. Vows are promises. That’s what the word means. They are not just cheery statements of affection. The bride and groom are making promises, and the community is there to hear them and afterwards to support them, and, if need be, enforce them. Of course, there is marriage law too, so that if the vows are a bit flaky, the law can step in. All the same, people want to hear the same vows that they made when they married, not some generic love poem. When they hear others repeating vows, they are reminded of their own. That’s proper ritual.

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Deborah and I broke most of the old rules as necessary and kept the ones we liked. Admittedly we agreed to her wearing rings (engagement and wedding) but not me, and I got comments on that after the ceremony. It was partly a matter of expense and partly the fact that I don’t like rings. On the few occasions when I have been given one, it has spent most of its life in a box. I have one now of great sentimental value that sits in a drawer. I never wear it.

The ceremony took place at a friends’ house in their garden near our house. We owned a house on the Neversink River in Cuddebackville, NY and had lived there for 3 years. So there was no business of going to the bride’s town for the service, or of not seeing the bride before the ceremony, etc. Nor did I have a bachelor party. I find them pretty tasteless affairs anyway. We decided on 21 June for the wedding by consulting an almanac. It seemed like an auspicious date because in that year (1986) the almanac listed 21 June as a Saturday, the solstice, and a full moon (called the Strawberry moon). What could be better?

Deborah’s family all came from Kentucky (where she was born) including her parents and grandmothers; her father was there but had no part in the ceremony. We organized the entire affair jointly. Our main idea was to avoid all the usual expensive trappings whilst maintaining a sense of dignity and formality for the ritual part. The whole wedding cost us under $200, including the justice of the peace’s fee. Admittedly my sister contributed the cake and baked goods, and our friends bought the champagne. Everyone agreed it was one of the best weddings they had attended; better than many that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

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The home owners had constructed a white cloth screen backdrop with ribbons and bows for the focal point of the service. I wore a new grey suit and Deborah made a white outfit for herself. We used flowers from our garden – mock orange and roses.

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In the late morning both families gathered inside our friends’ house, and the other guests mingled in the garden where there was a table for the cake, which my sister had baked, and presents, at the back. When the JP came he situated himself by the screen, and a few minutes later Deborah and I came out of the house side by side into the garden, and through the guests standing around. Our neighbors’ dog led the way with a white ribbon around her neck. Deborah called her our flower girl. As soon as we got before the JP, she sat down and went to sleep. Meanwhile our witness party (the two home owners and Deborah’s sister) brought up the rear and then flanked us when we stood before the JP. The ceremony was standard, by-the-book stuff – short and sweet, but covered all the bases.

When we turned around after the ceremony we scanned all the faces. Everyone had come including, to our amazement, two friends from England whom we had invited as a joke more than anything else, just to indicate to them that we were thinking of them. They had kept it completely secret, but co-ordinated with some other friends of ours who picked them up at the airport, housed them, and brought them along. Amazing.

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We had champagne and cake (recipe at the end) and opened our presents with a certain degree of formality. My friend Royston Wood had offered to be photographer and took a stellar set of pictures, which proved to be exceptionally difficult to take because the Midsummer sun was bright that day and reflected fiercely off the white cloth backdrop. This was in the days of chemical film and light meters. After cake, Royston and I sang together the traditional English folk song, the Wedding Song from the Copper family, with him singing bass and me tenor (also playing the concertina). He had been bass singer with the legendary 1960s group, the Young Tradition. He was to die several years later in a tragic car accident.

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After some toasts and general well wishing, we all went back to our house for a garden party. We had a big garden with tons of space. Much to our surprise, our guests had all brought changes of clothes and some games, including a softball set. We all changed into casual wear from our smart clothes and had one big blowout. Deborah and I laid out a big buffet of salads, cold cuts, and what not, and my sister had brought a boat load of cakes and goodies, including chocolate squares with a delectable chocolate cream topping that were so yummy that our English friends’ young daughter literally bathed in one all over her arms and face and went up to her father and spread out her thoroughly daubed arms and said – “Look daddy.” To which he replied, “That’s lovely dear. Go and show your mummy.” Smart lad; he knew what mummy’s reaction would be. Marriage at work.

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The house and garden were packed with people eating and drinking, and generally having a good time. My sister’s son was in his element playing softball, and he had no idea that all my friends were setting it up so that eventually he could win the game with a grand slam which he thought was the highlight of the wedding. At sundown the family helped us clean up after the guests had left, and then went off to hotels to leave us alone. Next day we packed the car and headed off for our honeymoon at Niagara Falls.

For years afterwards people who had come to the wedding commented on how much fun they had had. Here’s the cake recipe that my sister sent me recently. I’ve edited it a little, but it’s basically how she sent it to me.

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Orange Wedding Cake

Ingredients

Cake

2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder,
1 ½ cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
½ cup vegetable oil
6 fl oz orange juice

Filling

1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
10 egg yolks
¼ lb unsalted butter
1 orange rind, grated

Buttercream

2 lb unsalted butter at room temp.
1 ⅓ cups sugar
2 tspn vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

Instructions

For the cake

Put the oil, egg yolks and orange juice into a bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add the dry ingredients by sifting them over the bowl a third at a time and mixing gently with a wooden spoon until they are thoroughly combined.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry, and fold them into the batter gently a third at a time

Bake in a 12 inch pan with grease proof paper lining the bottom at 350°F  for about 30 minutes. The top should bounce back and toothpick inserted should come out clean

For the filling

In a non reactive pot put the sugar, orange juice, and egg yolks. Mix and then bring slowly to near the boil over medium heat, stirring gently all the time. When it coats the back of a spoon, it is ready. DO NOT BOIL. Add the grated rind of an orange. Take off the heat

Add unsalted butter and stir to melt

Transfer to a bowl and put plastic wrap on the surface. Refrigerate until cold

Whip 2 cups of cream until it is stiff and fold gently in to the orange curd a little at a time.

For the buttercream

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until they are almost white when. Add the vanilla extract. Continue beating  and slowly trickle in 2 cups of cream.  It will become very smooth and spreadable.

Assembly

Slice the cake horizontally into thirds. This takes experience. Best to use a long, serrated bread knife and put toothpicks into the side of the cake all round so you can use this to guide the knife.

Use the orange mousse for the filling by placing the bottom third of the cake on a plate, adding half the mousse on top, then spreading it evenly. Next place the middle layer of cake over the mousse, spread the other half of the mousse on it and spread it. Then add the top layer of cake.

Using a flat spatula ice the sides of the cake with buttercream. When the sides are finished put a healthy layer on top and smooth everything. If you are able, pipe stars all round the bottom of the cake where it meets the plate. Finish it off with either sliced oranges or a cluster of pretty flowers. We used pink roses.

Jan 222016
 

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Today is the birthday (1875) of David Llewelyn Wark “D. W.” Griffith, so-called “Inventor of Hollywood” who not only pioneered modern film-making techniques, but was the first director to film in southern California. He is mostly remembered for the groundbreaking but extremely controversial 1915 film The Birth of a Nation.

Griffith was born in Crestwood, Kentucky to Mary Perkins and Jacob “Roaring Jake” Griffith, who were of Anglo-Welsh ancestry. Jacob Griffith was a Confederate Army colonel in the American Civil War and was elected as a Kentucky state legislator. Griffith attended a one-room schoolhouse where he was taught by his older sister, Mattie Griffith. After his father died when he was ten, the family struggled with poverty. When Griffith was 14, his mother abandoned their farm and moved the family to Louisville, where she opened a boarding house. It failed shortly after. Griffith then left high school to help support the family, taking a job in a dry goods store and later in a bookstore.

He began his creative career as a playwright but met with little success with only one of his plays being accepted for a performance. Griffith then decided to become an actor, and appeared in many plays as an extra. In 1907, still struggling as a playwright, he traveled to New York in an attempt to sell a script to Edison Studios producer Edwin Porter. Porter rejected Griffith’s script, but gave him an acting part in Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest instead. Finding this attractive, Griffith began to explore a career as an actor in the fledgling motion picture business. In 1908, he accepted a role as a stage extra in Professional Jealousy for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, commonly known as Biograph, where he met his future, favorite cameraman, G. W. “Billy” Bitzer. In 1908, Biograph’s main director Wallace McCutcheon grew ill, and his son, Wallace McCutcheon, Jr., took his place. McCutcheon, Jr., however, was not able to bring the studio any success. As a result, Biograph co-founder, Henry “Harry” Marvin, decided to give Griffith the position. He made his first short movie for the company, The Adventures of Dollie, subsequently directing 48 shorts for the company that year.

In 1910 Griffith whilst scouting for suitable outdoor locations with good weather and natural light came across the little village of Hollywood where he shot In Old California, a short melodrama set in Mexican times. The success of the movie prompted the Biograph company to leave New York for Hollywood, and other companies followed. Thus Hollywood was born. But it is the period between Griffith first becoming a director and moving to California that interests me because during that time he made dozens of shorts in Cuddebackville, NY, where I owned a house for nearly 30 years. Some of the history of this period is documented in this post on Mary Pickford — http://www.bookofdaystales.com/mary-pickford/

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Cuddebackville is on the Neversink river, tributary of the Delaware, clustered on the banks of the river near an aqueduct that was built to carry the Delaware and Hudson canal over the river. Griffith knew one of the owners of the, now-defunct, canal and had journeyed there with him before becoming a film director. At the time there were, and still are, large river and mountain views without signs of human habitation. So they were ideal as site locations for Griffith’s movies about Native Americans, of which he made many. It is extremely telling that while he was roundly condemned for his racist portrayal of African-Americans in Birth of a Nation, his depictions of Native Americans are always sympathetic, and condemn only white settlers for their brutal ways.

Many of his pioneering film techniques such as soft focus and slow fade, were developed in Cuddebackville. In fact, the iris he used on his camera lens for slow fade was made by the Cuddebackville blacksmith whose house and forge still stand directly across the river from my old house.

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Griffith took the whole crew to Cuddebackville in 1908-1909 filming dozens of shorts there on Native American and contemporary issues. Both interiors and exteriors of local houses were used as locations, and most of them still exist and are easily recognizable. My colleague Tom Gunning who wrote a monograph on Griffith’s 1908-09 movies (http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/87gbw5tr9780252063664.html), came out to stay with me in Cuddebackville in the early 1980s and showed a number of Griffith’s shorts that were shot in Cuddebackville, to a local audience. Older viewers remembered Griffith’s visits and could name some of the extras in the films. One man in the audience even named the horse in The Modern Prodigal, saying it belonged to his uncle !!

Here’s a typical Cuddebackville short called The Little Darling, shot mostly inside the Caudebec Inn where the crew stayed, and at Otisville rail station, the nearest stop on the Hudson line from New York. It’s only about 3 minutes long and cost virtually nothing to make. It’s essentially a one-joke movie made more or less on the spur of the moment when the crew was idle. The owner of a boarding house receives a letter saying that her niece is coming for a visit. She assumes that her niece is a little girl, and the boarders, delighted at the prospect, rush out and buy toys for her. When she arrives they are shocked to discover that the niece is a young lady (Mary Pickford).

This movie gives an excellent idea of the crew’s living conditions in Cuddebackville, and the inn and store are still there.

The Modern Prodigal is more typical of Griffith’s Cuddebackville shorts. For both contemporary and Native American films he used the Neversink river a great deal. The river shots here were taken right below my house.

In my post on Mary Pickford I gave a recipe for brook trout which was once plentiful in the Neversink. The Modern Prodigal features a local pig farm. Pig farming was a major business in the region in the early 20th century, and was still surviving when I lived there. Every October I had a pig roast for all my neighbors and friends – my biggest party of the year, probably rivaling gatherings in the Caudebec Inn when Griffith stayed. I usually had more than 100 guests from all over – artists, musicians, family, friends. Here’s my fire pit and smoker.

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I can’t really give you a recipe as such for whole roast pig. Everyone I know who has a pig roast learns from someone else, or else just figures it out. The principles are simple; experience comes over time. I used to get a 150 lb young pig delivered on a Friday afternoon in late October when nights were chilly. A neighbor had constructed a turnable spit which I wired the pig to that night and kept it in my potting shed overnight. Around 3 am I built a fire of seasoned hard wood which I got started using hot coals from my wood stove. After about an hour there were enough coals ready to start the pig roasting. I set the spit over the coals with a hood over it to keep the heat contained a little, and a marquee over the whole affair in case of rain. In fact it never did rain, October being a very dry month in that area. Then it was simply a matter of time and patience. I turned the spit a quarter turn every 15 minutes, so that the pig turned one revolution per hour. I kept a fire going beside the pit, and fed hot coals under the pig as needed. Pricking the skin with a large fork periodically, basted it and eventually crisped it.

I would stay beside the pig faithfully for about 14 hours, serving dinner around 6 pm. By that time I was black with soot, thoroughly smelling of smoke, and utterly exhausted. But it was always a whale of a party. We served the pork, which was unbelievably succulent – best ever – with potatoes baked in the coals, cole slaw, and whatever else anyone cared to bring. A 150 lb pig served 100+ people well, with plenty of leftovers.

 

 

Apr 082015
 

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Today is the birthday (1892) of Mary Pickford, darling of the screen in the silent era, and who made significant contributions to the development of film acting. I might not have paid her much attention in the past were it not for the fact that she traveled with the Biograph company under D.W. Giffith to my tiny little Catskills village, Cuddebackville, in 1909 and 1910 where she made a number of shorts. Once I give a little background I want to focus on that era, mainly because I feel a personal attachment.

Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in 1892 at 211 University Avenue, Toronto. Her father, John Charles Smith, was the son of English Methodist immigrants, and worked a variety of odd jobs. Her mother, Charlotte Hennessey, was of Irish Catholic descent and worked for a time as a seamstress. Gladys had two younger siblings, Charlotte, called “Lottie” (born 1983), and John Charles, called “Jack” (born 1896), who also became actors. To please her husband’s relatives, Pickford’s mother baptized her children as Methodists, the faith of their father. John Charles Smith was an alcoholic; he abandoned the family and died on February 11, 1898 from a fatal blood clot caused by a workplace accident when he was a purser with Niagara Steamship.

Charlotte Hennessey Smith began taking in boarders after being widowed. One of these was a theatrical stage manager. At his suggestion, Gladys (age 7) was given two small roles, one as a boy and the other as a girl, in a stock company production of The Silver King at Toronto’s Princess Theatre. She subsequently acted in many melodramas with Toronto’s Valentine Company, finally playing the major child role in their version of The Silver King. She capped her short career in Toronto with the starring role of Little Eva in their production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, adapted from the 1852 novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

By the early 1900s, theater had become a family enterprise. Gladys, her mother and two younger siblings toured the United States by rail, performing in third-rate companies and plays. After six impoverished years, Gladys allowed one more summer to land a leading role on Broadway, planning to quit acting if she failed. In 1906 Gladys, Lottie and Jack Smith supported singer Chauncey Olcott on Broadway in Edmund Burke.Gladys finally landed a supporting role in a 1907 Broadway play, The Warrens of Virginia. The play was written by William C. deMille, whose brother, Cecil, appeared in the cast. David Belasco, the producer of the play, insisted that Gladys Smith assume the stage name Mary Pickford. After completing the Broadway run and touring the play, however, Pickford was again out of work.

On April 19, 1909, the Biograph Company director D. W. Griffith screen-tested her at the company’s New York studio for a role in the nickelodeon film, Pippa Passes. The role went to someone else but Griffith was immediately taken with Pickford. She quickly grasped that movie acting was simpler than the stylized stage acting of the day. Most Biograph actors earned $5 a day but, after Pickford’s single day in the studio, Griffith agreed to pay her $10 a day against a guarantee of $40 a week.

Pickford, like all actors at Biograph, played both bit parts and leading roles, including mothers, ingenues, charwomen, spitfires, slaves, native Americans, spurned women, and a prostitute. As Pickford said of her success at Biograph:

“I played scrubwomen and secretaries and women of all nationalities … I decided that if I could get into as many pictures as possible, I’d become known, and there would be a demand for my work.”

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She appeared in 51 films in 1909 – almost one a week.

Most of her Biograph movies were shot in studios in New York city. But the company traveled twice to Cuddebackville for location shots. Many of Griffith’s movies had Wild West or Indian themes, and prior to 1909 he had done exterior shots across the Hudson in New Jersey. But after a while critics began commenting on the unrealistic nature of “Fort Lee scenery,” and Griffith cast around for wilder locations. One of his friends was a part owner of the Delaware and Hudson canal which crossed the Neversink river (via Roebling aqueduct) in a heavily wooded region and site of Cuddebackville where there was a boarding house big enough for cast and crew. The canal was closed down but the river provided scenic locations. This is how the location looks now – used in at least two movies for Indian canoe scenes (stone aqueduct abutments and all !!). My house is just to the left of the abutment (out of image)

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Pickford’s Cuddebackville movies include (links to IMDb):

The Indian Runner’s Romance

The Little Darling

The Mountaineer’s Honor

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Muggsy Becomes a Hero

A Gold Necklace

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In January 1910, Pickford traveled with a Biograph crew to Los Angeles. Many other film companies wintered on the West Coast, escaping the weak light and short days that hampered winter shooting in the East. Pickford added to her 1909 Biographs (Sweet and Twenty, They Would Elope, and To Save Her Soul, to name a few) with films made in California. Actors were not listed in the credits in Griffith’s company. Audiences noticed and identified Pickford within weeks of her first film appearance. Exhibitors in turn capitalized on her popularity by advertising on sandwich boards that a film featuring “The Girl with the Golden Curls”, “Blondilocks”, or “The Biograph Girl” was inside.

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Pickford left Biograph in December 1910. The following year, she starred in films at Carl Laemmle’s Independent Moving Pictures Company (IMP). IMP was absorbed into Universal Pictures in 1912, along with Majestic. Unhappy with their creative standards, Pickford returned to work with Griffith in 1912. Some of her best performances were in his films, such as Friends, The Mender of Nets, Just Like a Woman, and The Female of the Species. That year Pickford also introduced Dorothy and Lillian Gish (both friends from her days in touring melodrama) to Griffith. Both became major silent stars, in comedy and tragedy, respectively. Pickford made her last Biograph picture, The New York Hat, in late 1912.

She returned to Broadway in the David Belasco production of A Good Little Devil (1912). This was a major turning point in her career. Pickford, who had always hoped to conquer the Broadway stage, discovered how deeply she missed film acting. In 1913, she decided to work exclusively in film. The previous year, Adolph Zukor had formed Famous Players in Famous Plays. It was later known as Famous Players-Lasky and then Paramount Pictures, one of the first American feature film companies.

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Pickford left the stage to join Zukor’s roster of stars. Zukor believed film’s potential lay in recording theatrical players in replicas of their most famous stage roles and productions. Zukor first filmed Pickford in a silent version of A Good Little Devil. The film, produced in 1913, showed the play’s Broadway actors reciting every line of dialogue, resulting in a stiff film that Pickford later called “one of the worst [features] I ever made … it was deadly.” Zukor agreed; he held the film back from distribution for a year.

Pickford’s work in material written for the camera by that time had attracted a strong following. Comedy-dramas, such as In the Bishop’s Carriage (1913), Caprice (1913), and especially Hearts Adrift (1914), made her irresistible to moviegoers. Hearts Adrift was so popular that Pickford asked for the first of her many publicized pay raises based on the profits and reviews. The film marked the first time Pickford’s name was featured above the title on movie marquees. Tess of the Storm Country was released five weeks later. Biographer Kevin Brownlow observed that the film “sent her career into orbit and made her the most popular actress in America, if not the world.”

Her appeal was summed up two years later by the February 1916 issue of Photoplay as “luminous tenderness in a steel band of gutter ferocity.” Only Charlie Chaplin, who reportedly slightly surpassed Pickford’s popularity in 1916, had a similarly spellbinding pull with critics and the audience. Each enjoyed a level of fame far exceeding that of other actors. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Pickford was believed to be the most famous woman in the world, or, as a silent-film journalist described her, “the best known woman who has ever lived, the woman who was known to more people and loved by more people than any other woman that has been in all history.”

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Pickford starred in 52 features throughout her career. In 1916, Pickford signed a new contract with Zukor that granted her full authority over production of the films in which she starred, and a record-breaking salary of $10,000 a week. Occasionally, she played a child, in films such as The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), Daddy-Long-Legs (1919) and Pollyanna (1920). Pickford’s fans were devoted to these “Little Girl” roles, but they were not typical of her career.

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In August 1918, Pickford’s contract expired and, when refusing Zukor’s terms for a renewal, she was offered $250,000 to leave the motion picture business. She declined, and went to First National Pictures, which agreed to her terms. In 1919, Pickford, along with D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, formed the independent film production company United Artists. Through United Artists, Pickford continued to produce and perform in her own movies; she could also distribute them as she chose. In 1920, Pickford’s film Pollyanna grossed around $1,100,000. The following year, Pickford’s film Little Lord Fauntleroy was also a success, and in 1923, Rosita grossed over $1,000,000 as well. During this period, she also made Sparrows (1926), which blended the Dickensian with newly minted German expressionist style, and the romantic comedy My Best Girl (1927).

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The arrival of sound was her undoing. Pickford underestimated the value of adding sound to movies, claiming that “adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo.” She played a reckless socialite in Coquette (1929), a role for which her famous ringlets were cut into a 1920s bob. Pickford had already cut her hair in the wake of her mother’s death in 1928. Fans were shocked at the transformation. Pickford’s hair had become a symbol of female virtue, and when she cut it, the act made front-page news in The New York Times and other papers. Coquette was a success and won her an Academy Award for Best Actress,[but the public failed to respond to her in the more sophisticated roles. Like most movie stars of the silent era, Pickford found her career fading as talkies became more popular among audiences.

Her next film, The Taming of The Shrew, made with husband Douglas Fairbanks, was not well received at the box office. Established Hollywood actors were panicked by the impending arrival of the talkies. On March 29, 1928, The Dodge Brothers Hour was broadcast from Pickford’s bungalow, featuring Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, John Barrymore, D.W. Griffith and Dolores del Rio, among others. They spoke on the radio show to prove that they could meet the challenge of talking movies.

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But the transition came as Pickford was in her late 30s, no longer able to play the children, teenage spitfires, and feisty young women so adored by her fans. She was not suited for the sleekly elegant heroines of early sound. In 1933, Pickford underwent a Technicolor screen test for an animated/live action film version of Alice in Wonderland, but Walt Disney discarded the project when Paramount released its own version of the book. Only one Technicolor still of her screen test still exists. She retired from acting in 1933; her last acting film was released in 1934. She continued to produce for others, however, including Sleep, My Love (1948; with Claudette Colbert) and Love Happy (1949;, with the Marx Brothers).

There are two recipes I associate with my 25 years in Cuddebackville — whole roast local pig in the autumn, which I cooked in my garden on a spit for around 16 hours.  Many of my friends did the same at big blowout parties that Mary Pickford would have approved of. More modest is pan fried or grilled brook trout from the Neversink river.  River trout has been popular with fly fishermen for well over a century in that part of the Catskills. Sadly the Neversink suffered greatly when a reservoir for New York City was built upstream, making the water too shallow and warm to support natural stocks of trout.  But they are artificially introduced yearly in the spring, so all is not lost. Friends and I have been known to sling a hook in the water for a delectable trout dinner.

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River trout needs little in the way of preparation.  Too many additions can mask the flavor of the fish. It’s hard to beat simple wood/charcoal grilling, or (dry) pan frying.  However, if you are interested in more complex dishes go here:

http://www.yummly.com/recipes/brown-trout

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Typically I take one freshly caught trout per person, split it open all the way from head to tail, remove the guts, and carefully take out the backbone. Rinse the inside well. Prepare a well-flavored butter of your choice by mixing together 1 stick of room temperature butter and the zest and juice of a lemon.  Mix in herbs such as thyme, sage, or fresh tarragon. They  should be fresh and finely chopped.

Season both sides of the fish with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then slather lemon butter on both sides.  Have your grill well heated and grill both sides of the fish for 2 to 3 minutes per side about 4″ from the coals.  I prefer to use the basket style of griddle that holds the fish firmly in place.  That way you can flip the fish easily without fear of it breaking.  I usually serve the trout with boiled new potatoes with butter and parsley, and fresh (lightly minted) garden peas.