SeekSobriety.com - Heroine of the Day - Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979) was a Canadian-American motion picture actress, co-founder of the film studio United Artists and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Known as "America's Sweetheart", "Little Mary" and the "girl with the curls", she was one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting.
In consideration of her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute named Pickford 24th among the greatest female stars of all time.

Pickford, like all actors at Biograph, played both bit parts and leading roles, playing mothers, ingenues, charwomen, spitfires, slaves, native Americans, spurned women and even a prostitute. As Pickford said of her success at Biograph:
"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."

....Tess of the Storm Country was released five weeks later. Biographer Kevin Brownlow observed that the film "sent her career into orbit and made her the most popular actress in America, if not the world".
Her appeal was summed up two years later by the February 1916 issue of Photoplay as "luminous tenderness in a steel band of gutter ferocity". Only Charlie Chaplin, who reportedly slightly surpassed Pickford's popularity in 1916, had a similarly spellbinding pull with critics and the audience. Each enjoyed a level of fame far exceeding that of other actors. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Pickford was believed to be the most famous woman in the world, or, as a silent-film journalist described her, "the best known woman who has ever lived, the woman who was known to more people and loved by more people than any other woman that has been in all history."

The film industry

Pickford used her stature in the movie industry to promote a variety of causes. During World War I, she promoted the sale of Liberty Bonds, through an exhausting series of fund-raising speeches that kicked off in Washington, D.C., where she sold bonds alongside Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Theda Bara, and Marie Dressler. Five days later she spoke on Wall Street to an estimated 50,000 people. Though Canadian-born, she was a powerful symbol of Americana, kissing the American flag for cameras and auctioning one of her world-famous curls for $15,000. In a single speech in Chicago she sold an estimated five million dollars' worth of bonds. She was christened the U.S. Navy's official "Little Sister"; the Army named two cannons after her and made her an honorary colonel.
At the end of World War I, Pickford conceived of the Motion Picture Relief Fund, an organization to help financially needy actors. Leftover funds from her work selling Liberty Bonds were put toward its creation, and in 1921, the Motion Picture Relief Fund (MPRF) was officially incorporated, with Joseph Schenck voted its first president and Pickford its vice president. In 1932, Pickford spearheaded the "Payroll Pledge Program", a payroll-deduction plan for studio workers who gave one half of one percent of their earnings to the MPRF. As a result, in 1940 the Fund was able to purchase land and build the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital, in Woodland Hills, California.
An astute businesswoman, Pickford became her own producer within three years of her start in features. According to her Foundation, "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." She demanded (and received) these powers in 1916, when she was under contract to Zukor's Famous Players In Famous Plays (later Paramount). He also acquiesced to her refusal to participate in block-booking, the widespread practice of forcing an exhibitor to show a bad film of the studio's choosing in order to also show a Pickford film. In 1916, Pickford's films were distributed, singly, through a special distribution unit called Artcraft. The Mary Pickford Corporation was briefly Pickford's motion-picture production company.

Mary Pickford War Funds bungalow, 1943
In 1919, she increased her power by co-founding United Artists (UA) with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and her soon-to-be husband, Douglas Fairbanks. Before UA's creation, Hollywood studios were vertically integrated, not only producing films but forming chains of theaters. Distributors (also part of the studios) then arranged for company productions to be shown in the company's movie venues. Filmmakers relied on the studios for bookings; in return they put up with what many considered creative interference. United Artists broke from this tradition. It was solely a distribution company, offering independent film producers access to its own screens as well as the rental of temporarily unbooked cinemas owned by other companies. Pickford and Fairbanks produced and shot their films after 1920 at the jointly owned Pickford-Fairbanks studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. The producers who signed with UA were true independents, producing, creating and controlling their work to an unprecedented degree. As a co-founder, as well as the producer and star of her own films, Pickford became the most powerful woman who has ever worked in Hollywood. By 1930, Pickford's acting career had largely faded. After retiring three years later, however, she continued to produce films for United Artists, and she and Chaplin remained partners in the company for decades. Chaplin left the company in 1955, and Pickford followed suit in 1956, selling her remaining shares for three million dollars.

Personal Life

Mary Pickford, 1921

Pickford was married three times. She married Owen Moore, an Irish-born silent film actor, on January 7, 1911. It is believed she became pregnant by Moore in the early 1910s and had a miscarriage or an abortion. Some accounts suggest this resulted in her later inability to have children. The couple had numerous marital problems, notably Moore's alcoholism, insecurity about living in the shadow of Pickford's fame, and bouts of domestic violence. The couple lived apart for several years.

Pickford became secretly involved in a relationship with Douglas Fairbanks. They toured the US together in 1918 to promote Liberty Bond sales for the World War I effort. Around this time, Pickford also suffered from the flu during the 1918 flu pandemic, but survived. Pickford divorced Moore on March 2, 1920, and married Fairbanks on March 28 of the same year. They went to Europe for their honeymoon; fans in London and in Paris caused riots trying to get to the famous couple. The couple's triumphant return to Hollywood was witnessed by vast crowds who turned out to hail them at railway stations across the United States.

The Mark of Zorro (1920) and a series of other swashbucklers gave the popular Fairbanks a more romantic, heroic image. Pickford continued to epitomize the virtuous but fiery girl next door. Even at private parties, people instinctively stood up when Pickford entered a room; she and her husband were often referred to as "Hollywood royalty". Their international reputations were broad. Foreign heads of state and dignitaries who visited the White House often asked if they could also visit Pickfair, the couple's mansion in Beverly Hills.
Dinners at Pickfair included a number of notable guests. Charlie Chaplin, Fairbanks' best friend, was often present. Other guests included George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, Elinor Glyn, Helen Keller, H. G. Wells, Lord Mountbatten, Fritz Kreisler, Amelia Earhart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Noël Coward, Max Reinhardt, Baron Nishi, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Austen Chamberlain, Sir Harry Lauder, and Meher Baba, among others. The public nature of Pickford's second marriage strained it to the breaking point. Both she and Fairbanks had little time off from producing and acting in their films. They were also constantly on display as America's unofficial ambassadors to the world, leading parades, cutting ribbons, and making speeches. When their film careers both began to founder at the end of the silent era, Fairbanks' restless nature prompted him to overseas travel (something which Pickford did not enjoy). When Fairbanks' romance with Sylvia, Lady Ashley became public in the early 1930s he and Pickford separated. They divorced January 10, 1936. Fairbanks' son by his first wife, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., claimed his father and Pickford long regretted their inability to reconcile.
On June 24, 1937, Pickford married her third and last husband, actor and band leader Buddy Rogers. They adopted two children: Roxanne (born 1944, adopted 1944) and Ronald Charles (born 1937, adopted 1943, a.k.a. Ronnie Pickford Rogers). As a PBS American Experience documentary noted, Pickford's relationship with her children was tense. She criticized their physical imperfections, including Ronnie's small stature and Roxanne's crooked teeth. Both children later said their mother was too self-absorbed to provide real maternal love. In 2003, Ronnie recalled that "Things didn't work out that much, you know. But I'll never forget her. I think that she was a good woman."

Legacy

The Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood, constructed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, opened in 1948 as a radio and television studio facility. The Mary Pickford Theater at the Library of Congress is named in her honor.
The Mary Pickford Auditorium at Claremont McKenna College is named in her honor.
There is a first-run movie theatre in Cathedral City, California, called The Mary Pickford Theatre. The theater is a grand one with several screens and is built in the shape of a Spanish Cathedral, complete with bell tower and three-story lobby. The lobby contains a historic display with original artifacts belonging to Pickford and Buddy Rogers, her last husband. Among them are a rare and spectacular beaded gown she wore in the film Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924) designed by Mitchell Leisen, her special Oscar, and a jewelry box.[citation needed]
The 1980 stage musical The Biograph Girl about the silent film era features the character of Pickford. In 2007, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued the estate of the deceased Buddy Rogers' second wife, Beverly Rogers, in order to stop the public sale of one of Pickford's Oscars.
On February 8, 1960, Pickford was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6280 Hollywood Blvd. Her handprints and footprints are also displayed at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Pickford received a posthumous star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto in 1999. In 2006, along with fellow deceased Canadian-born stars Fay Wray, Lorne Greene and John Candy, Pickford was featured on a Canadian postage stamp.[38] From January 2011 until July 2011, the Toronto International Film Festival exhibited a collection of Mary Pickford memorabilia in the Canadian Film Gallery of the TIFF Bell LightBox building.[39] * In February 2011, the Spadina Museum, a museum dedicated to the 1920s and 1930s era in Toronto, staged performances of Sweetheart: The Mary Pickford Story, a one-woman musical based on the life and career of Pickford.[40]
In 2013, a copy of an early Pickford film that was thought to be lost (Their First Misunderstanding) was found by Peter Massie, a carpenter tearing down an abandoned barn in New Hampshire. It was donated to Keene State College and is currently undergoing restoration by the Library of Congress for exhibition. The film is notable as being the first in which Pickford was credited by name.

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Quotes

“The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.”

“If you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes, there is always
another chance for you. And supposing you have tried and failed again and again, you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

“I think Oscar Wilde wrote a poem about a robin who loved a white rose. He loved it so much that he pierced his breast and let his heart's blood turn the white rose red. Maybe this sounds very sentimental, but for anybody who has loved a career as much as I've loved mine, there can be no short cuts.”

"I was forced to live far beyond my years when just a child, now I have reversed the order and I intend to remain young indefinitely."

"Make them laugh, make them cry, and back to laughter. What do people go to the theater for? An emotional exercise. And no preachment."

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