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September 24, 2013

Mary Pickford film found in NH barn is restored

KEENE, N.H. (AP) — Carpenter Peter Massie has come across some interesting finds over the years — antique bottles, old newspapers stuffed in walls. But his biggest discovery of all is the only known copy of a 1911 Mary Pickford movie that marked a turning point in the silent film star's career.

The Library of Congress is funding a project to restore the film, titled "Their First Misunderstanding," and it will be shown next month at Keene State College, where a retired professor has overseen the restoration.

The film is the first one Pickford wrote and the first for which she was given credit in the advertising materials. Before that, movie studios didn't want actors to become household names because they'd demand more money, said Pickford scholar Christel Schmidt, editor of "Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies."

Massie, who discovered the film along with six other vintage reels in a New Hampshire barn he was tearing down in 2006, is looking forward to seeing it.

"This is the coolest thing I've ever found on any job," he said. "It's pretty fantastic, that's what I think. They were seconds away from going into a Dumpster."

The property where Massie found the films apparently used to be a summer camp for boys, and the movies were probably shown to entertain the campers, said Larry Benaquist, who founded the film program at Keene State. Massie donated the films to the college, and Benaquist led the effort to identify and restore them.

Pickford, known as "America's Sweetheart," was one of Hollywood's earliest stars. She was a co-founder of the United Artists film studio and helped establish the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She retired from acting in 1933 and died in 1979.

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