Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford (April 8, 1892 - May 29, 1979) was a motion picture star, known as "America's Sweetheart" and "the girl with the curl." She became one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood.


Mary Pickford

Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (for some reason, Pickford always claimed that her middle name was Marie). Her father, John Charles Smith, was a purser on a steamship who died in an on-board accident. Her mother, née Charlotte Hennessy, began taking in boarders, and through one of these lodgers Gladys, aged five, was cast in a local play, The Silver King, as Baby Gladys Smith. She subsequently played in many melodramas and became a popular child actress in Canada. Her mother took her to New York, looking for stardom, and she landed a leading role in a 1907 Broadway play, The Warrens of Virginia, produced by David Belasco (at whose insistence she assumed the stage name Mary Pickford), which was written by William C. DeMille, brother of Cecil B. DeMille, who was also in the cast. D. W. Griffith screen tested and hired her for a part in a one-reel thriller, The Lonely Villa in 1909. Pickford would go on to become Hollywood's biggest female star, the first female actor to receive more than a million dollars a year (the first male actor who made a million dollar deal was Charlie Chaplin), and one of the few stars who were successful in both the silent film era and the sound film era. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929, but retired from films four years later, after a series of disappointing roles and the public's inability to accept Pickford in roles that reflected her own age, rather than teenage heroines.

She was married three times. She was first married to Owen Moore (1886-1939), an Irish-born silent-film actor, on January 7, 1911. They were divorced in March 1920. She next married Douglas Fairbanks, Sr (1883-1939), the action-adventure film star, on March 28, 1920. They divorced in January 1936. Her last husband was Charles "Buddy" Rogers (1904-1999), a fresh-faced actor known as "America's Boy Friend" and later a bandleader, whom she married in 1937; they had two adopted children, Roxanne and Ronald. Fairbanks, however, was the love of the actress's life, and upon hearing of his death, Pickford reportedly began to weep in front of her new husband, Rogers, saying "My darling is gone."


Chronology

  • Prior to 1909: studied theatre actress in New York City
  • 1909: discovered by David Wark Griffith at Biograph, worked for $5 a week
  • 1910: I.M.P., $175 a week
  • 1911: Majestic Film Corp.
  • 1912: back to Biograph
  • 1913: Appears (with Lillian Gish) in Belasco's Broadway production A Good Little Devil
  • 1913: Famous Players, $20,000 a year
  • 1915: worked for various companies, $1000 to $2000 a week
  • 1916: founded The Mary Pickford Corporation as a part of Paramount Pictures, she gets about $10,000 a week. She became the first actress who was the producer of her own films.
  • 1918: First National. She gets $675,000 for three films plus 50% of all profits, plus a signing bonus of $50,000 and complete control over her films, ranging from script to the final cut.
  • 1919: A very astute business person, she founded United Artists together with Charlie Chaplin, David Wark Griffith and her husband Douglas Fairbanks and became its first vice president in 1936.

She also founded Mary Pickford Cosmetics, a beauty company, in 1937.

For the last 50-odd years of her life, Pickford suffered from alcoholism, which also afflicted her first husband and her father. She died on May 29, 1979 holding dual U.S./Canadian citizenship and is buried with her scandal-prone brother Jack Pickford in the Pickford private family plot in the Garden of Memory of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California, USA.

She has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6280 Hollywood Blvd.

See also: Other Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood


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