Lost Mary Pickford movie discovered in N.H. barn

(CBS News) NEW YORK -- A giant of the silent film era, Mary Pickford made more than 200 movies, but the 1911 film "Their First Misunderstanding" was thought to have been lost long ago.

"We have a list of all of Mary Pickford's films, but this was among the missing," says film historian Leonard Maltin.

This image provided by Keene State College shows frames of a 1911 movie with actress Mary Pickford. The film was discovered in a New Hampshire barn and is undergoing restoration.
This image provided by Keene State College shows frames of a 1911 movie with actress Mary Pickford. The film was discovered in a New Hampshire barn and is undergoing restoration.
AP Photo/Keene State College

To Maltin, the film is an important discovery.

"It's like finding an early song by George Gershwin, or an unpublished short story by Mark Twain," Maltin says.

Found by a carpenter in an old New Hampshire barn, the film was donated to Keene State College, where Larry Benaquist realized he had a gem.

"Apparently it had been a boys' school -- a boys' camp, and during the summer, they'd set up this 35mm projector and show these ancient films to the boys," Benaquist says.

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Pickford was just 18 when she made "Their First Misunderstanding," a 10-minute movie about a wife's fight with her husband.

Watch: Library of Congress aims to reverse cultural tragedy, below.

"And apparently this 1911 film was the first time she received screen billing as Mary Pickford," Maltin says. "Well in a very short time that name, Mary Pickford, became world famous."

She would form her own studio, United Artists, with Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, and take home two Oscars. But in 1911, with this film, audiences first learned the name of the actress who became America's sweetheart.

Watch a clip from Mary Pickford's film "Their First Misunderstanding" from Keene State College's film archive here.


  • Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"

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