AMC in Hollywood with Peter Jones,” the second of three autumn specials, is the kind of memorabilia show that rewards both movie scholars and movie fans.
Tonight’s half-hour, written, produced and directed by affable host Peter Jones, centers on Mary Pickford, Lon Chaney Sr. and venerable costume designer/production designer Tony Duquette. The production is loaded with wonderful historical clips and stills from the silent era into the early ’50s, freshly narrated and crisply paced, squeezing into 30 minutes a remarkable range of material.
There’s a great still of Mack Sennett and his first child actors, “The Nine Watson Kids”– one of whom, Coy Watson Jr., is interviewed on the show (he played Chaney’s son in the 1913 “Price of Silence”).
As for Chaney, Jones claims his reputation as a movie monster is misleading: “He made more than 150 movies,” says Jones, “but only five can be classified as horror movies.”
Pickford’s image is balanced between her Goldilocks youth and descriptions by contemporaries of her tough negotiating skills. One colleague says that at the height of her fame she wrested a $ 150,000 contract for her mother.
Near retirement at age 36, Pickford is quoted as saying, “People remember me as the little girl with curls, and I don’t want them to see me grow old.”
The show also recalls her wish to destroy all her films under her control for fear the public would find them technically “ridiculous and primitive.” Mercifully, old friend Lillian Gish didn’t buy it and stepped in to thwart the destruction of the negatives.
Among the show’s surviving figures interviewed on camera, Duquette, 80, commenting on Hollywood past and present, delivers the most stinging line: “In the old times if you sat beside someone at dinner, you had to talk. Now, it’s just ‘wow.’ ”