Mary Pickford

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The following article was researched and written by Laksman Prabakaran. More contributors.


The Signficance of Mary Pickford

Laksman Prabakaran is researching and writing about Mary Pickford'

Mary Pickford along side Charlie Chaplin and D.W Griffith co-founded the United Artists in 1919. The sort of an alliance was never formed before, and it changed the rules of the film industry. United Artists allowed the three to have full power over their films. This included financing, distributing, and producing. Of course this new studio and the power it gave to actors did not go very well with everyone in the industry; Richard Rowland was quoted as saying “the lunatics have taken charge of the asylum” 1.

Mary Pickford played an important role in financing World War 1. She used her image in the movie industry to promote various methods to raise money for causes. Pickford along side Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Marie Dressler sold Liberty bonds to raise money for the war. She made speeches that started off in Washington D.C., and in New York, where it said that over 50,000 people were present. Also, during a speech in Chicago, Pickford sold an estimated five million dollars worth of bonds. At the end of the war, Pickford created the Motion Picture Relief Fund. The organizations mission was to help actors who need financial assistance. The Motion Picture Relief Fund was formed with leftover funds from Pickford’s work, and funds from selling Liberty bonds. The organization was officially incorporated in 1921. In 1932 Pickford created the Payroll Pledge Program. Pickford’s form of the program was a payroll-deduction plan, for which workers would give one half of a percent from their salary to the Motion Picture Relief Fund. In 1940 Pickford was able to use the funds to build the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital. Pickford was one of the most powerful actresses in Hollywood. She became her own producer within a couple years of her first few films. Her foundation has stated “she oversaw every aspect of the making of her films, from hiring talent and crew to overseeing the script, the shooting, the editing, to the final release and promotion of each project.” 2 Being able to control almost every aspect of her films, and co-founding the United Artists, made Mary Pickford the most powerful woman in Hollywood. When Mary first started in the film industry she was only making $50 a week. Soon due to her popularity and image, she was known as America’s sweetheart, the girl with the golden curls, and Little Mary, she soon started to demand $100 a week, doubling her weekly salary. As Pickford moved from one studio to another, she increased her salary demands. For example, when she left Biograph Studios and joined IMP, then later went on to Majestic, Pickford demanded over $225 a week. In 1916 Pickford joined Famous Players, which at the time was run by Adolph Zukor. When Pickford first joined she was only making $25,000 a year. However, just three years later the girl with golden curls had increased her yearly salary by 20 times, making just over $500,000 a year.

Who was Mary Pickford?

Mary Pickford was a Canadian born woman who found fame and fortune in Hollywood as an actress, and producer. She was an inspiration and leader for all women, actors, and actresses in Hollywood. Mary Pickford was one of Hollywood’s most prominent and successful women. The American Film Institute named Mary Pickford 24th among the greatest female stars of all time. She was one of the greatest stars of the silent film era, working with legends such as Charlie Chaplin and D.W Griffith. Known as America’s Sweetheart she co-founded United Artists in 1919 and won her first Oscar in 1929. Her contract demands were vital in shaping the Hollywood market. Her international fame and influence were unprecedented and important to the development of film. Pickford had two siblings, a younger brother and sister, who also joined the film industry.

Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith, on April 8, 1892 in Toronto, Ontario. She had two siblings Jack Pickford, and Lottie Pickford. Her father John Charles Smith was an alcoholic who left the family when Mary was younger. Her mother, Charlotte Hennessy was a hard working single mother, who raised Mary and both her younger siblings. John Smith left the family in 1895 and later died of cerebral hemorrhage. Pickford was known as the girl with the golden curls, it is believed that when she was younger she visited her local florist each week. Upon every visit Pickford bought a single rose. Which she then tore off each pedal and ate it one by one, believing it would make her more beautiful. Pickford first began her acting career when she was only seven, winning a part in a small play called The Silver King, at Toronto’s Princess Theatre. Her career took flight when she got the starring role in the play Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as Little Eva, the play is considered to be the most popular of the 19th century. Pickford first got her acting opportunity with Biograph studio, which at the time was run by D.W. Griffith. She was screen tested for the film Pippa Passes, but Pickford did not get the part. However, Griffith was taken back by Mary’s form of acting, and signed her to Biograph. Pickford soon went on to appear in films, where she would play small roles, such as a mother, a native women, and even a prostitute. Pickford looking back on her time with Biograph stated “I played scrubwomen and secretaries and women of all nationalities…I decided that if I could get into as many pictures as possible, I’d become known, and there would be a demand for my work.” 3 Pickford did get known, and soon appeared in a film a week. Pickford retired from film in 1933; however she did continue to produce films, through United Artists studio, which she also co-founded. In 1955, Charlie Chaplin another co-founder of United Artists left the company after over three decade relationship. Following his footsteps, Pickford left in 1956, selling off her final remaining shares. Pickford was married three times throughout the course of her life. Her first marriage was with Owen Moore, an Irish born actor on January 7, 1911. Pickford and Moore spent several years apart due to the many problems they had, it was believed that Moore couldn’t live under the shadow of Pickford. Her second marriage was with United Artists co-founder, Douglas Fairbanks. Pickford and Fairbanks got married on March 28th, 1920, a little over two weeks after her official divorce from Owen Moore. A little over a decade later, Pickford divorced Fairbanks, after his relationship with Lady Sylvia Ashley became public. Pickford’s last husband was Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers. They remained married for over forty years. Together they adopted two children, a young boy names Ronald Charles, and a girl a named Roxanne. On May 29th 1979 Pickford past away at the age of 87. She died of cerebral hemorrhage, the same disease that haunted her father. Awards and Achievements The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named the Center of Motion Picture Study after Mary Pickford. The center now called the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study is located in Hollywood, California and was opened in 1948. At the Library of Congress the “Mary Pickford Theatre” is named in her honor. In 1976 Mary Pickford received the Academy Honorary Award for a lifetime of achievements. Pickford also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located in Hollywood Boulevard. In 1999 Pickford received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame located in Toronto, Ontario. Pickford also appeared on a Canadian postage stamp in 2006.

Books About Mary Pickford


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