In this 1914 version of the story Tess of the Storm Country, Mary Pickford plays Tessibel “Tess” Skinner. Tess and her father live on a piece of land near a body water as squatters. They are poor but peaceful making a meager living net fishing. The wealthy land owner who’s land they squat on wants all the squatters to leave. Tess, through a local lawyer, finds out about squatters’ rights and they can all stay. The wealthy land owner, Elias Graves, is not happy about this. To get back at the squatters he has some environmental people come around and ban net fishing.
Elias has a son named Frederick who studies at a theological school. They take a walk down by where the squatters are settled and there they meet Tess. Frederick likes Tess and she likes him. He comes back occasionally to see her when he his home from school.
Another squatter is murdered and the blame is falsely placed on Tess’s father. She tries to prove he is a good man and a good father but that does not swing the jury who accuse him of the murder and send him to hang. After the sentencing Frederick comes around more to be with Tess. He feels awful about what happened to her father.
Sometime later Frederick learns that Dan has been killed. In grief Frederick goes away for a while to get his mind off of his loss. Frederick has a sister named Teola. Teola had been in love with Dan and finds out that she is pregnant with his child out of wedlock. Teola likes and trusts Tess and stays with her until her baby is born. The baby stays with Tess since Teola’s family cannot know about what has happened.
Of course there is then a mix up with Frederick and this no good squatter thinking the baby is Tess’s. Tess is a good friend and never reveals who the baby really belongs to. Towards the end of the story the baby becomes sick and is not going to survive very long. The baby has not been baptized so Tess tries to bring the baby to the church to be so. The priest is willing but Elias Graves is there and gets into an uproar about Tess being there thinking she is an unwed mother. Tess performs her own prayers on the baby. Teola is at church and breaks down and confesses that the baby is hers.
Fredrick goes to see Tess later on. He tells Tess that his mother and father send their thanks and gratitude for watching over the baby and helping Teola and also that Teola has died. But the story does not end on a sad note. Fredrick and Tess share their first kiss.
Tess of the Storm Country was a typical melodrama. It was not too bad. Seeing a twenty-one-year-old Mary Pickford play a feisty, strong character was great. She made Tess, and the whole film enjoyable to watch. Pickford would reprise her role of Tess Skinner eight years later in a remake of Tess of the Storm Country. This 1914 version is definitely worth seeing especially if you like Mary Pickford. The film is available to view in full on YouTube.