Cast & Crew
Amanda Afflick, a laundress with a romantic imagination, weaves a story about a shirt brought to the laundry eight months earlier by Horace Greensmith. She tells her fellow workers that the shirt belongs to her fiancé, Sir Horace, to whom her father objected and expelled from their castle, but who will one day return. While waiting for her lord, Amanda saves Lavender, the old laundry horse, from the glue factory and takes her home with her but is ousted the following morning by indignant tenants. Luckily, Lady Burke, a philanthropist, comes to Lavender's aid by providing her a home on the Burke country estate. Although the laundry driver Ben Pillsbury pines for Amanda, she ignores him, preferring to wait instead for Lord Horace. When Greensmith finally arrives for his shirt, Amanda pleads with him to pretend that he is her lover and he agrees, but later, realizing how shabby she looks, he discards her. He leaves Amanda, her romantic dreams shattered, sobbing, while Ben waits outside the laundry, disconsolate.
Suds - Mary Pickford in SUDS
Suds was originally called The Duchess of Suds and was adapted from an English one-act play introduced in 1905. Pickford is a homely Cockney laundress named Amanda Afflick who has romantic daydreams about one of her handsome customers. Amanda cherishes the shirt he had brought in for washing over eight months ago, even though he has apparently forgotten about it. So, Amanda tells her fellow workers that the garment really belongs to her fiance, an English lord. We see this fantasy via a mini-movie in which Pickford appears as a virginal lady-in-waiting, an overripe characterization that is ironically the false image many people have of Pickford.
Released June 27, 1920, Suds has the distinction of being one of Pickford's most Chaplin-esque productions. Performing on sets standing in for a post-Dickensian London slum, Mary Pickford, America's Sweetheart, looks every bit the part of an impoverished, hard-working Cockney lass. She is similar to Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. When we first glimpse Amanda, houseflies are dancing on her leg and up her tattered skirt. Of course, having the most famous set of blond locks in the world is a drawback when you want to appear like a street urchin. So to achieve the appropriately grimy look, Pickford applied a liberal dose of oil to her hair. The way director Jack Dillon and cinematographer Charles Rosher shot the sets helped immensely in creating a convincing London slum. While the story is Chaplin-esque, the photorealistic shooting looks more like Buster Keaton's style.
Bonus features on the DVD include the original foreign release of Suds in its entirety, with an organ score by Gaylord Carter. Also featured is an alternate happy ending with a score by the Mont Alto Orchestra. Most helpful is a short side-by-side comparison of the foreign and American versions that reveal the same cast and the same story making up an entirely different film.
There is also included a short documentary called The Birth of a Legend (1966) about the relationship between Pickford and her dashing matinee idol husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. It was during the production of Suds that Mary and Doug were wed in 1920. The wedding was semi-secret due to the concerns the couple had over the public's reaction to their marriage. Mary was Catholic, and her divorce from actor Owen Moore was deemed unacceptable in some Catholic quarters. Plus, Fairbanks was also recently divorced. After fearing for many months that their marriage would destroy their careers, the pair decided that they had both proved themselves in Hollywood, and decided to take the plunge, careers be damned. But to delay the rumors, Mary came to the Suds set with adhesive tape covering her wedding ring. Once the wedding became public, their marriage was hailed with worldwide rejoicing. "This America's Sweetheart business must stop," joked Fairbanks. "She's my sweetheart. And if the world doesn't like it, they know the way to Beverly Hills."
For more information about Suds, visit Milestone Films. To order Suds, go to TCM Shopping.
by Scott McGee
Suds - Mary Pickford in SUDS
The working titles for the film were The Duchess of Suds and Op O' Me Thumb. Three cameras were used in the shooting of this production, which was awarded the Board of Merit of the Motion Picture Theatrical Association's first seal of approval. Contemporary sources state that the harsh conclusion generated such widespread criticism that a second, happy ending was filmed in which Amanda lives happily on Lady Burke's estate with Lavender and Ben.