Peter Pan (1924)

Peter Pan (1924), directed by Herbert Brenon.

I haven't made a study of Peter Pan in film -- I still have to get to Disney's Peter Pan (1953) -- but I don't recall any as joyous and exciting as this silent treatment, the first version made of the original play and book, still pretty new at the time.

It hits elements perhaps dropped later. The romance: Wendy wants kisses from Peter, but he has no idea what she means. The violence: when he first flies the children to Neverland, Peter says: "There's a pirate down there. Shall we kill him?" In the big swordfight at the end only two pirates escape with their lives.

Children may not want to grow up but can't help it. Peter's magic is that he is always a boy -- still with his baby teeth -- and perfectly free to have fun. The tension he and all the Lost Boys have is that they can escape their families -- or be abandoned by them -- but still yearn for a Mother. Wendy is happy to play that role for them, and even the pirates want her for their Mother.

The movie follows the book closely, maybe too much in spots. We have a long skit of Mr Darling slipping his medicine into the dog's bowl; I would have skipped it.

Cast and crew:

Notes from the book:

Thought lost for many years, a restoration was made in 1994 from two rediscovered film sources.

The unrestored film is available online for free, for example at the Internet Archive. My thumbnails are from a Kino Blu-ray of the restoration. Score by Philip C. Carli and commentary track from Kat Ellinger.