The German films of Ernst Lubitsch had already achieved international renown when Mary Pickford, worried that her immense popularity playing little girls was typing her as a “personality instead of an actress,” brought him to America to direct this 1923 romantic comedy. As Rosita, a popular Spanish street singer, she loves a nobleman who defended her with his sword; after the philandering king of Spain falls for Rosita, the queen does her best to keep the two apart. Lubitsch lent the film a formal elegance that tames its many plot twists and opulent sets, at times achieving a musical precision: when the king chases Rosita around a room in his palace, a series of short, exactly timed shots turns his silly pursuit into an almost metrical dance. While silent films often used action to suggest sound, Lubitsch articulates space by combining implied sounds with rhythmic editing. But Lubitsch and Pickford fought during the shooting, and she later called Rosita her “worst picture, bar none…my first punishment for wanting to grow up on the screen.” While her performance may lack the obvious appeal of her girl roles, Rosita is a good example of silent spectacle, full of purely cinematic moments when diverse images of its vast sets come together almost architecturally. To be accompanied on piano by David Drazin. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, January 10, 2:00 and 6:00, 312-443-3737. –Fred Camper
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.