Sunday, January 19, 2014

Silent Sundays: Rosita (1923)


“Seville is asleep, and in the alley next to the picket fences, she breaks the night’s silence with serenade’s unforgivable stanzas.”  

            Since the beginning of the film industry actors and actresses have been pigeon holed played a certain type of character. Sometimes they were able to break away from their earlier stereotypes (Myrna Loy and Joan Bennett come to mind). Even today certain actors and actresses have a hard time breaking away from certain types of characters. One famous actress who had a difficult time breaking away from what her audience expected from her was Mary Pickford. Pickford played sweet innocent little girls for much of her career. In 1923 she decided to break away from those little girl roles. To help with her transformation, Pickford hired famed German director Ernst Lubitsch to come and direct a version of Faust. Unfortunately Pickford was advised against making Faust where a mother kills her illegitimate child most likely by her mother. Pickford had been willing to make a film that would most likely did not do well she wanted to make the story that much. Instead of making Faust, Lubitsch and Pickford made Rosita.
            A Spanish king is kept entertained by several women even though he is married.
            A carnival has come to the town of Seville and the people have thrown all abandonment to the wind. The Queen is concerned about the people. She wants to lead them away from the demons that have taken their souls. The King wants to go with her to see everything with his own eyes.
            Everyone becomes excited when the local street singer Rosita (Pickford) sings in the square. The King and Queen’s carriage comes through town and everyone scatters. Rosita is angry with the King because he drove away her audience before they could give her money. When Rosita returns home she is so fired up about the King driving away her audience that when a man comes to tell her she is to pay taxes she gets so furious that she rips up the paper and pushes the man down. After her little fit with the tax collector, Rosita writes a song about the King.
            The King is informed that Rosita is going about shaming him with her songs. The King goes to the square in disguise. Rosita is arrested as sings. At the jail a man named Don Diego defends her honor in a duel and winds up killing the other man. Diego and Rosita sit next to each other in court. With their hands behind their backs Rosita shakes Diego’s hand in thanks. When Diego is called up to the judge he says things that make Rosita flip out and she is taken out for being a disturbance. The judge receives a note that Diego is a captain who has just returned from the West Indies. Rosita and Diego are placed in cells opposite each other.
            Rosita is taken to the palace. The King comes and he immediately tries to kiss her but she pushes him away. Then she makes him chase her. She shows him her tattered dress and says she is not suitable for court. The King rings for someone to bring Rosita a dress. The King still tries to put the moves on Rosita and she pushes him away again. When he leaves the room Rosita runs into another room to get away. Unfortunately in the room is the Queen. Rosita tells the Queen she has no idea what is going on. The King comes back but the Queen is now there and acts as if nothing was going on the whole time even though Rosita is wearing one of the Queen’s dresses.
            Rosita goes back to her home in the dress the King gave her. Someone from the palace comes with a gift of apology from the King. She does not accept the gift. Her foster parents are furious with her. They want her to repay them for all they have done for her. Rosita decides to accept the King’s villa he offered to place her. To get back at the King she takes her whole family with her. The foster mother gets the idea to speak to the King about finding Rosita a husband with a noble title. The King tells the foster mother he will think her idea over. Diego had sent the King a letter requesting to be killed like a soldier by shooting rather than be hanged. The King tells one of his men to have Diego marry Rosita then make her a widow.
            Diego receives a letter from the King that he may be shot like a soldier only if he marries someone incognito. The wedding goes as planned with both Rosita and Diego blindfolded. After the wedding, Rosita rips her blindfold off along with Diego’s. She is heartbroken. Rosita goes to the King to beg him to pardon Diego since he had been defending her. The King refuses he says the law wants to see Diego executed. The Queen hears the entire exchange. She has heard his treachery before. Rosita, to his face, calls the King dirty and filthy and he does nothing to her. The Queen cannot understand why the King did not call his guards after what Rosita said to him. To stay in Rosita’s good graces the King agrees to write a letter not to kill Diego. The Queen sees Rosita stroking the King’s hair in happiness as he writes his letter. She does not know why the action is taking place all she can think of is a way to put out the King’s flame of passion.
            The King tells Rosita that he will have blanks put in the guns but Diego must act like he has been killed. When Rosita leaves the King tells one of his men that Diego must die.
Rosita and Diego are happy that they can be together. She tells him to act like he is dead when he is shot at. The King’s man tells Rosita that the King has ordered Diego to be murdered.
            Rosita returns to the palace. She has the King set a table for three because Death will be joining them. In sadness and anger Rosita opens a door to show the King Diego’s body. All of the sudden Diego gets up from his resting place. He was not killed the King’s orders were never sent. The King is not happy. In a carriage ride on the way back to their main palace the Queen tells the King she had his order canceled because of his passion for Rosita.
            Mary Pickford was wonderful in this film. She was a grown up woman. I was happy to see Pickford not overact. At the beginning Pickford played Rosita as this feisty young woman speaking her own mind. She was great with that. My favorite scene in the movie and scene from any of Pickford’s films I have seen so far is when Rosita is at the palace not knowing what will happen. She is told to wait in a room. Rosita walks back and forth passed a table that has food on it. As she walks back and forth she looks at the food and after some time and though she takes the food as she walks passed it each time. It was a funny scene and definitely a Lubitsch type of scene.
            Ernst Lubtisch’s direction was great as usual the man was a genius. He knew how to get the most out of his actors and actresses. Pickford had always had her way with directors she usually wound up doing what she felt like doing but she respected and liked Lubitsch so she took his direction.
            There are stories that Pickford and Lubitsch did not get along while making this film. According to Kevin Brownlow’s book Mary Pickford Rediscovered those stories are not true. For the rest of their lives Lubitsch and Pickford said they had enjoyed making the film together and that is was one of the best they had made and one that was special to them. Brownlow believes that Pickford wanted the negatives destroyed and never wanted the film persevered was because she had so desperately wanted to make Faust and was advised out of making it. He believes that it reminded Pickford of her lost opportunity to make a film she was willing to throw all caution to the wind and not care about commercial appeal to make.

            Rosita is a cute enjoyable film. It is a shame that Mary Pickford did not want the film to be persevered. Rosita is currently available to view in full on Youtube. I highly suggest seeing Rosita before Youtube takes it off for any reason.