Just before tearing down an old barn in New Hampshire, a contractor did one last check and discovered a treasure: seven reels of film that he donated to the Keene State College Film Archives, reports the college. It has since determined that at least four of those films were ones thought to have been lost. One of those, Their First Misunderstanding, is the 1911 silent short film that features silent movie star Mary Pickford appearing in her first credited role. Prior to that, Pickford, then 18, had been known only as "Little Mary" in films. The Library of Congress is funding the film's restoration (it hadn't even been stored in a can), and it will be screened at the New Hampshire college on Oct. 11.
"It's a big deal," says a Pickford scholar of the film's discovery seven years ago. Another expert says the movie "fills an important gap," because Pickford had a "short-lived association" with Carl Laemmle's Independent Moving Picture Co. Their First Misunderstanding was the first movie she made for IMP. It's about a newlywed couple's first fight, and also stars Pickford's then-husband Owen Moore, the Los Angeles Times reports. The nitrate reel was stuck to another, and had to be carefully separated. Though there are slight "jumps in action," the Pickford expert says "no significant amount of footage" was lost. See a clip here. (Read more Mary Pickford stories.)