Born: Gladys Mary Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 8 April 1893. Family: Married 1) the actor Owen Moore, 1911 (divorced 1920); 2) the actor Douglas Fairbanks, 1920 (divorced 1936); 3) the actor Buddy Rogers, 1937, two adopted children. Career: 1898—debut as child actress in stage play Bootle's Baby ; played other roles in Valentine Stock Company, and toured with other companies; 1907—Broadway debut in The Warrens of Virginia ; 1909—film debut as extra in Her First Biscuits ; leading role in D. W. Griffith's The Violin Maker of Cremona : became known as "The Biograph Girl with the Curls"; 1913–18—contract with Zukor; 1918—independent producer; 1919—co-founder, with Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith, of United Artists; 1923–24—roles in Rosita and Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall attempted to break her "little girl" image; 1929—first sound film, Coquette ; 1937—formed Mary Pickford Cosmetic Company; 1956—sold the last of her United Artists stock. Awards: Best Actress Academy Award for Coquette , 1928/29. Died: In Santa Monica, California, 29 May 1979.
Films as Actress:
(all films directed by Griffith unless noted)
Her First Biscuits ; The Violin Maker of Cremona ; The Lonely Villa ; The Son's Return ; The Faded Lilies ; The Peach Basket Hat ; The Way of Man ; The Necklace ; The Mexican Sweethearts ; The Country Doctor ; The Cardinal's Conspiracy ; The Renunciation ; The Seventh Day ; A Strange Meeting ; Sweet and Twenty ; The Slave ; They Would Elope ; The Indian Runner's Romance ; His Wife's Visitor ; Oh Uncle ; The Sealed Room ; 1776, or The Hessian Renegades ; The Little Darling ; In Old Kentucky ; Getting Even ; The Broken Locket ; What's Your Hurry ; The Awakening ; The Little Teacher ; The Gibson Goddess ; In the Watches of the Night ; His Lost Love ; The Restoration ; The Light That Came ; A Midnight Adventure ; The Mountaineer's Honor ; The Trick That Failed ; The Test ; To Save Her Soul
All on Account of the Milk (Powell); The Woman from Mellon's ; The Englishman and the Girl ; The Newlyweds ; The Thread of Destiny ; The Twisted Trail ; The Smoker ; As It Is in Life ; A Rich Revenge ; A Romance of the Western Hills ; May and December ; Never Again! ; The Unchanging Sea ; Love among the Roses ; The Two Brothers ; Romona ; In the Season of Buds ; A Victim of Jealousy ; A Child's Impulse ; Muggsy's First Sweetheart ; What the Daisy Said ; The Call to Arms ; An Arcadian Maid ; Muggsy Becomes a Hero ; The Sorrows of the Unfaithful ; When We Were in Our Teens ; Wilful Peggy ; Examination Day at School ; A Gold Necklace ; A Lucky Toothache ; Waiter No. 5 ; Simple Charity ; The Masher ; The Song of the Wildwood Flute ; A Plain Song
White Roses ; When a Man Loves ; The Italian Barber ; Three Sisters ; A Decree of Destiny ; The First Misunderstanding (Ince and Tucker); The Dream (Ince and Tucker) (+ sc); Maid or Man (Ince); At the Duke's Command ; The Mirror ; While the Cat's Away ; Her Darkest Hour (Ince); Artful
Honor Thy Father (Moore); The Mender of Nets ; Iola's Promise ; Fate's Inception ; The Female of the Species ; Just Like a Woman ; Won by a Fish (Sennett); The Old Actor ; A Lodging for the Night ; A Beast at Bay ; Home Folks ; Lena and the Geese (+ sc); The School Teacher and the Waif ; An Indian Summer ; A Pueblo Legend ; The Narrow Road ; The Inner Circle ; With the Enemy's Help ; Friends ; So Near, Yet So Far ; A Feud in the Kentucky Hills ; The One She Loved ; My Baby ; The Informer ; The Unwelcome Guest ; The New York Hat
In the Bishop's Carriage (Porter); Caprice (Dawley)
A Good Little Devil (Porter); Hearts Adrift (Porter); Tess of the Storm Country (Porter); The Eagle's Mate (Kirkwood); Such a Little Queen (Hugh Ford); Behind the Scenes (Kirkwood); Cinderella (Kirkwood)
Mistress Nell (Kirkwood); Fanchon, the Cricket (Kirkwood); The Dawn of Tomorrow (Kirkwood); Little Pal (Kirkwood); Rags (Kirkwood); Esmerelda (Kirkwood); A Girl of Yesterday (Dwan); Madame Butterfly (Olcott)
The Foundling (O'Brien); Poor Little Peppina (Olcott); The Eternal Grind (O'Brien); Hulda from Holland (O'Brien); Less Than Dust (Emerson)
The Pride of the Clan (Tourneur); The Poor Little Rich Girl (Tourneur); A Romance of the Redwoods (De Mille); Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (Neilan) (title role); A Little Princess (Neilan)
Stella Maris (Neilan) (title role/Unity Blake); Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley (Neilan); M'Liss (Neilan); How Could You, Jean? (Taylor); Johanna Enlists (Taylor); One Hundred Percent American (Rossen)
Captain Kidd, Jr. (Taylor)
The Madonna in the Gaucho (Jones)
Films as Producer:
Daddy Long-Legs (+ ro); The Hoodlum (+ ro); The Heart o' the Hills (+ ro)
Pollyanna (+ title role); Suds (+ ro)
The Love Light (Marion) (+ ro as Angela); Through the Back Door (Green and Jack Pickford) (+ ro as Jeanne Budamere); Little Lord Fauntleroy (Green and Jack Pickford) (+ ti-tle role)
Tess of the Storm Country (Robertson) (+ title role)
Rosita (Lubitsch) (+ title role); Garrison's Finish (Rosson)(co-sc titles only)
Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (Neilan) (+ title role)
Little Annie Rooney (Beaudine) (+ title role)
Sparrows (Beaudine) (+ ro as Mama Mollie)
My Best Girl (Sam Taylor) (+ ro as Maggie Johnson)
Coquette (Sam Taylor) (+ ro as Norma Besant); The Taming of the Shrew (Sam Taylor) (+ ro as Katherine)
Kiki (Sam Taylor) (+ title role)
Secrets (Borzage) (+ roles as Mary Marlow/Mary Carlton)
By PICKFORD: books—
Pickfordisms for Success , Los Angeles, 1922.
Why Not Try God? , New York, 1934, as Why Not Look Beyond? , London, 1936.
Little Liar (novel), New York, 1934.
The Demi-Widow (novel), Indianapolis, 1935.
My Rendezvous with Life , New York, 1935.
Sunshine and Shadow , New York, 1955.
By PICKFORD: articles—
"What It Means to Be a Movie Actress," in Ladies' Home Journal , January 1915.
"The Body in the Bosphorus," in Theatre , April 1919.
"Greatest Business in the World," in Chaplin (Stockholm), 10 June 1922.
"Mary Is Looking for Pictures," in Photoplay (New York), June 1925.
"Mary Pickford Awards," in Photoplay (New York), October 1925.
On PICKFORD: books—
Niver, Kemp, Mary Pickford: Comedienne , Los Angeles, 1970.
Cushman, Robert, Tribute to Mary Pickford , Washington, D.C., 1970.
Lee, Raymond, The Films of Mary Pickford , South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1970.
Wagenknecht, Edward, Movies in the Age of Innocence , New York, 1971.
Windelen, Robert, Sweetheart: The Story of Mary Pickford , London, 1973 + biblio.
Rosen, Marjorie, Popcorn Venus , New York, 1973.
Carey, Gary, Doug and Mary: A Biography of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford , New York, 1977.
Herndon, B., Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks: The Most Popular Couple the World Has Ever Known , New York, 1977.
Eyman, Scott, Mary Pickford: America's Sweetheart , New York, 1990.
Whitfield, Eileen, Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood , Lexington, 1997.
Brownlow, Kevin, Mary Pickford Rediscovered: Rare Pictures of a Hollywood Legend , New York, 1999.
On PICKFORD: articles—
Johnson, Julian, "Mary Pickford, Herself and Her Career," in Photoplay (New York), November 1915-February 1916.
Belasco, David, "When Mary Pickford Came to Me," in Photoplay (New York), December 1915.
Cheatham, Maude, "On Location with Mary Pickford," in Motion Picture Magazine , June 1919.
Russell, M. Lewis, "Mary Pickford—Director," in Photoplay (New York), March 1920.
St. Johns, Adela Rogers, "Why Does the World Love Mary?" in Photoplay (New York), December 1921.
Birdwell, Russell, "When I Am Old, as Told by Mary Pickford," in Photoplay (New York), February 1925.
St. Johns, Adela Rogers, "The Story of the Married Life of Doug and Mary," in Photoplay (New York), February 1927.
Whitaker, Alma, "Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks Analyzes Mary Pickford," in Photoplay (New York), March 1928.
St. Johns, Adela Rogers, "Why Mary Pickford Bobbed Her Hair," in Photoplay (New York), September 1928.
Harriman, M. C., "Mary Pickford," in New Yorker , 7 April 1934.
Current Biography 1945 , New York, 1945.
Card, J., "The Films of Mary Pickford," in Image (Rochester, N.Y.), December 1959.
Spears, J., "Mary Pickford's Directors," in Films in Review (New York), February 1966.
"Lettre de Paris sur Mary Pickford," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1966.
Scaramazza, Paul, "Rediscovering Mary Pickford," in Film Fan Monthly , December 1970.
Harmetz, Aljean, "America's Sweetheart Lives," in New York Times , 28 March 1971.
Gow, Gordon, "Mary," in Films and Filming (London), December 1973.
"Album di Mary Pickford," in Cinema Nuovo (Turin), August 1979.
Mitry, J., "Le Roman de Mary Pickford," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 November 1980.
Arnold, Gary, "Mary Pickford," in The Movie Star , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), July 1984.
Bakewell, W., "Hollywood Be Thy Name," in Filmfax (Evanston), March 1990.
Schickel, Richard, "Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.: The Fabled House of Hollywood's Fabled Couple," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1990.
Classic Images (Muscatine), May 1990.
Kaufman, J.B., "Before Snow White," in Film History (London), June 1993.
Musser, Charles, "On Extras , Mary Pickford, and the Red-Light Film," in Griffithiana , May 1994.
Classic Images (Muscatine), October 1995.
Oderman, S., "Jack Pickford and Olive Thomas," in Films in Review (New York), November/December 1995.
Greene, R., "The Big Picture," in Boxoffice (Chicago), March 1996.
Corliss, Richard, "Queen of the Movies," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1998.
* * *
It is hard to imagine the impact and popularity of Mary Pickford during the height of her career since she retired from the screen in 1933 and refused to let her films be rereleased or shown on television. She sensed that the image she established of innocence, diligence, and uncomplicatedness was historically specific. Her embodiment of idealized, rural American values was essentially meaningless past the demise of the silent film era. She belonged in short to a different world, a world of rapidly expanding technology, star idolatry, and fantastic power. Fortunately, she donated most of her films to the American Film Institute, establishing the Mary Pickford Collection, and her third husband, Buddy Rogers, organized a small theater in her honor at the Library of Congress. These are the only two places where one can see the majority of her works.
Judging from her first one-reelers at Biograph, Pickford possessed a natural screen presence and mastery of mime technique that far exceeded her fellow performers. By the time she left Biograph, she had effectively redefined film acting. She later claimed, "I refused to exaggerate in my performance. . . . Nobody ever directed me, not even Mr. Griffith." She demonstrated intelligence, wit, grace, and ambition in quickly learning every detail of the film industry. She was fully aware of her popularity as "Little Mary" and "America's Sweetheart," and pressed the studios to pay her accordingly. By 1916 Pickford was earning $10,000 a week and choosing her scripts, cameraman, and director.
Her place in the pantheon of stars was secured by her performance in the title role of Tess of the Storm Country . This was followed by a string of brilliant roles that repeated the winning formula of innocence and pathos in such films as Poor Little Rich Girl , Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm , Pollyanna , Little Lord Fauntleroy , and one of cinema's first split-screen double roles in Stella Maris . The public adored her long golden curls and her embodiment of the eternal child/woman: lovable, spirited, whimsical, and pure. Behind the scenes she was an accomplished businesswoman. Pickford, along with Charles Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks, founded United Artists to control the production and distribution of their films.
In the 1920s Pickford's career did not diminish. She graduated from "America's Sweetheart" to "World's Sweetheart"; hundreds of thousands lined the streets of Moscow to see her when she and Fairbanks visited the Soviet Union in 1926. She could play any role, as her performances in Sparrows , Stella Maris , The Hoodlum , and The Taming of the Shrew demonstrate. But the public wanted "Little Mary" and Pickford enjoyed the wealth and fame too much to attempt more than a few departures from her established image. Pickford explained, "My career was planned, there was never anything accidental about it. It was planned, it was painful, it was purposeful."
Unable completely to escape her stereotype, she was forced to quit filmmaking as its popularity waned. One of the figures who shaped the Hollywood aesthetic, she lived as a virtual recluse in her mansion, Pickfair, until her death. She said of her filmgoing audience, "Make them laugh, make them cry, and back to laughter. What do people go to the theater for? An emotional exercise. . . . I am a servant of the people. I have never forgotten that." Mary Pickford, although unseen for many years, cannot be forgotten.