Gwendolyn (Mary Pickford) comes from a wealthy family and has all the privileges that come along with it, but she’d gladly trade it all to feel more loved by her parents. Her mother is too busy with social events to spend much time with her and her father is too busy with work and is currently busy dealing with a big financial crisis. The family’s servants are left to take care of Gwendolyn. She hardly gets to spend time with other children her own age and when she does, they’re usually the stuck up children of her mother’s snobby friends. She much prefers having fun with people like the plumber or the kids on the street, but every time she does, someone comes along to stop her fun. When it’s Gwendolyn’s birthday, she’s hardly welcome at her own birthday party; the guests are all friends of her parents.
One night, one of the family’s servants wants to go out, so she drugs Gwendolyn to get her to go to sleep. Only the servant gives her too much and she ends up getting close to death. While unconscious, Gwendolyn dreams she’s in the Garden of Lonely Children, where she meets a lot of characters based on the people she knows in real life. Meanwhile, her parents wait to find out whether or not their daughter will live and begin to re-evaluate their priorities in life.
Despite all of the amazing things Mary Pickford achieved during her career, she was hardly a larger than life person. She was just 5 feet tall and she found a way to make her stature work in her favor by playing children. The Poor Little Rich Girl is an excellent example of one of Pickford’s little girl roles. Between her short stature, signature hair curls, and some clever tricks, she actually is pretty believable as a child in Poor Little Rich Girl, even though she was in her mid-20s at the time she made the movie. These roles were a good chance for Pickford to play feisty, spunky, but very likable characters, which she did brilliantly. Even if you can tell when tricks were used to make Pickford appear smaller on screen (oversized sets, other actors who were considerably taller, placing taller people/large objects in the foreground), it’s hard not to be charmed by her, no matter how silly it may seem to have an adult playing a child.