Stella Maris | Chicago Reader

Stella Maris

Mary Pickford plays dual leads in this 1918 film, directed by her former costar Marshall Neilan. As Stella Maris, a rich but handicapped orphan whose parents raise her in complete ignorance of the world's cruelties, Pickford is characteristically lovely; as Unity Blake, an adoptee abused by her alcoholic mother, she's stunningly plain, her face effectively registering her painful situation. The contrast between the two performances is striking, but its point is obscured by the typically convoluted melodrama, in which Stella's suitor is also Unity's adoptive father. Neilan's imagery is largely theatrical—he seldom cuts meaningfully within scenes, he treats his locations almost as stage sets, and his idea of subtle lighting is using a narrow bar of light to illuminate the eyes of a murderess.

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