100 Years of Silent Film - 14th SilentFilmLiveFestival
Lubitsch's Rosita opens the 14th StummFilmLiveFestival at Babylon Berlin. The costume romance, set in a mythical Spain, is musically accompanied by Babylon Orhcester Berlin.
Rosita is set in Spain, where a lustful king (Holbrook Blinn) has his eye on a popular but provocative street singer (Mary Pickford). She, in turn, pines for the handsome young nobleman (George Walsh) who saved her from the king's angry guards - and was thrown into the dungeon for it. The queen (Irene Rich) wisely waits for the right moment to intervene.
After the American success of his German historical epics (Madame DuBarry, Anna Boleyn), Ernst Lubitsch was invited to Hollywood by Mary Pickford to direct her in her first adult role. The result is this thoroughly charming blend of the period films Lubitsch had made in Germany and his emerging interest in bittersweet romantic comedies.
"It was a charming and wonderful experience. Miss Pickford was very personable. Despite her fame and prominence, she followed my directions with the eager sympathy of a child. At the same time her alert and intelligent mind worked like a split lightning. Miss Pickford is a most remarkable woman. She is not only of the highest personal character, but an artist of real genius. It was a pleasure to work with her."
- Ernst Lubitsch, "My Two Years in America," in Motion Picture Magazine, 1925.
By all accounts, the film was a great critical and commercial success on its initial release, but in later years Pickford turned against the film for reasons that remain mysterious to this day and decided to let it lapse (she did, however, keep reel four for no less mysterious reasons).
Rosita disappeared from circulation until a nitrate copy was discovered in Russian archives and returned by the Museum of Modern Art in the 1960s.
A safety negative was made from the nitrate copy, but the film was not processed further until recent breakthroughs in digital restoration made it possible to restore much of the badly damaged image.
Since the original English-language intertitles have not survived, they had to be recreated based on an early draft of the script from the collection of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Russian intertitles, Swedish and German censorship records, a handful of lines from contemporary reviews and a sheet of music from the collection of the George Eastman Museum. Using the titles in Pickford's surviving fourth film reel as a template, new intertitles were created to match the original graphics as closely as possible.
Musicologist Gillian Anderson has reconstructed and arranged the original 1923 score, which will be performed live at this premiere by the Cinemusica Viva ensemble under Ms Anderson's direction.