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Peter Pan (1924 film)

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original movie poster
original movie poster
modern DVD release
modern DVD release

Peter Pan is a 1924 silent adventure film released by Paramount Pictures, the first film adaptation of the play by J. M. Barrie. It was directed by Herbert Brenon and starred Betty Bronson as Peter Pan and Mary Brian as Wendy Darling. It also featured Ernest Torrence as Captain Hook, Virginia Browne Faire as Tinker Bell, and groundbreaking Chinese American actress Anna May Wong, as the Indian princess Tiger Lily.

The film was celebrated at the time for its innovative use of special effects (mainly to show Tinker Bell and the flying sequences). In 2000, the United States Library of Congress deemed it "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

the Darling nursery
the Darling nursery
Hook confronts the crocodile
Hook confronts the crocodile

Background

Barrie personally selected Betty Bronson for the role, after viewing audition reels shipped to England from the US. Barrie wrote a screenplay with additional scenes to take advantage of the greater freedom which the medium of film would allow. Instead Brenon used a screenplay by Willis Goldbeck based largely on the stageplay, and using bits of original stage dialogue in the intertitles.

Anticipating that UK audiences would object to the film being Americanized, but that American audiences would respond better with some yankee touches (as were common in stage productions), some scenes were shot with two versions. For example, when the Lost Boys take command of the Jolly Roger, they raise the Union Jack in the UK version, and the Stars and Stripes in the US version. Similarly there are lines in the US version referring to the boys as "American gentlemen" and whether or not Peter would grow up to be "president".

Like so many silent-era films, for many years it was believed lost. A copy was discovered in the collection of a film buff who preserved and watched the films for his own entertainment at a disused cinema. Although filmed in black and white, the prints were tinted: most scenes were in warm sepia, but a few outdoor nighttime scenes were tinted bluish to suggest moonlight.

The film was re-released in 1999 by Kino on Video, based on a copy of the 35mm color print. It incorporated a musical score composed in 1996 by Philip C. Carli for live performances of the film, performed by the Flower City Society Orchestra.

Cast


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