Mary Pickford may be a name you’ve never heard of. But by gods you need to know about her. She was a true beauty had the brains and courage to stand up in acting circles and gained the name “America’s Sweetheart. Truly shows the public was on her side. Today marks the 123rd birthday of a lady that literally shaped Hollywood.
Born in 1892 has Gladys Marie Smith, Pickford was a Canadian American who was a big star of motion pictures as well as dipping her toes into producing and screenwriting. After a rough start in life and acting her break came at the hands of D.W. Griffith. She was a Biograph girl at a time when girls only earned $5 a day yet Griffith agreed to pay her $10 ($40 for the week) This woman had something special, and Griffith realised that.
1916 would see everything change for Pickford as an actress and as a woman in a mans career. She was signed up by Zukor and given full choice and decisions over all the films she starred in as well as $500 salary a week which broke records at the time.
Pickford would star in 52 feature films in her career and even as late as 1920 she was playing “Little Girl” roles, 1920 saw the 28 year old Pickford play a young girl. These were not typical roles for her though. All her films define her and she was fabulous in them all.
As with a lot of silent actors the arrival of Talkies became their downfall. Mary found that being in her 30’s meant she couldn’t play the young girls or feisty young women that her audience loved her for and couldn’t match up with the bombshells that were arriving to star in talkies, so in 1933, aged 40, she retired from acting but still produced films.
Acting isn’t all Pickford did in her life. Oh no she did much more, and some of it you’ll be thankful for. Mary Pickford was a co-founder of the film studio United Artists. She founded the studio along with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith in 1919 so they could control what films they make rather than using bigger companies that had majority say. She is also one of the 36 founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences.
Her personal life was personal. She married three times, her most famous to the gorgeous Douglas Fairbanks. This is also when she gained her American Citizenship.
Pickford is a silent actress who should be remembered for speaking out in the acting world. Talkies didn’t destroy her career they just made her take a different path and many of the actresses of the era count Pickford as an inspiration. Maybe you should too.
Here’s Mary Pickford in Sparrows. Enjoy!