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Film / Sparrows

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Sparrows is a silent film from 1926 starring Mary Pickford. Pickford is Molly, the oldest child in a horrific unlicensed orphanage—a "baby farm"—owned by the monstrous Mr. Grimes and his equally horrible wife and son. Mr. Grimes feeds the children starvation fare and uses them for forced labor on his ugly little farm stuck in the middle of a festering, alligator-ridden swamp. Molly for her part is the substitute mother and caretaker for all the hungry little children stuck with Mr. Grimes. One day Mr. Grimes enters into riskier criminal activity when he accepts a toddler that has been kidnapped from a rich family. The idea is to hold the child for ransom, but when the kidnapping makes front-page headlines, Mr. Grimes gets nervous and decides to drown the child in the swamp. Molly finds out about this and decides to make a break for freedom with the kids.

This rather treacly, sentimental film was Pickford's next-to-last silent picture. Pickford, 33 years old when the movie was made, appears in one of her typical Dawson Casting roles.


  • Death of a Child: The little baby starves to death.
  • Don't Split Us Up: When Mr. Wayne offers Molly a job as nanny to his son, she insists that all the kids from Mr. Grimes' baby farm be allowed to stay there.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In Molly's first scene she is flying a kite with the other kids. In Mr. Grimes' first scene, he receives a doll intended for one of the kids, which he chucks into a swamp.
  • Evil Cripple: Mr. Grimes walks with a limp and has a hunchback.
  • Happy Ending: A rather unrealistic one in which Mr. Wayne, father of the kidnapped boy, agrees to take on all ten of the kids from Mr. Grimes' baby farm.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Those sure are some cute kids.
  • Karmic Death: Mr. Grimes, who was plotting to throw both Molly and the kidnapped child into the swamp, stumbles and falls into the swamp himself.
  • Message in a Bottle: Molly and the kids tie a note begging for help to a kite, which they let go. It crashes into a tree.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Mr. Dennis Wayne is very worried when his toddler son is kidnapped from their mansion. No hint as to where the boy's mother is.
    • Also, at least some of those kids have parents that are still alive—in the opening scene Mr. Grimes receives a doll sent from a mother to her little girl—but apparently all of them are going to live with Molly and Mr. Wayne at the end regardless.
  • Orphanage of Fear
  • Promotion to Parent: Molly becomes the mother to her fellow orphans.
  • Title Drop: Multiple references to the Bible passage about how God is aware of every sparrow that falls.