The following look at the most classic of all classic Hollywood stars, the beautiful and talented icon of icons, is my humble contribution to the Mary Pickford Blogathon going on over at Classic Movies June 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
- Going by the monicker of "Baby Gladys Smith", Mary began her stage career at the age of six.
- Reputedly, Mary was the subject of the very first close-up in film history in the 1912 film Friends.
- She and husband Douglas Fairbanks Sr, became the first stars to put their hand prints in the cement outside of the famed Grauman's Chinese Theater.
The thing that made Mary a star was playing little girls. The girl with the curls, Mary found herself pigeon-holed in such roles for must of her career. The actress, much to her own chagrin, was still playing barely pubescent girls well into her thirties. She did play adult roles on occasion but her bread and butter was most certainly the teen and sub-teen roles. In a slew of films from Pride of the Clan to Poor Little Rich Girl to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms to M'Liss to Daddy-Long-Legs to Heart o' the Hills to Pollyanna to Little Lord Fauntleroy to Tess of the Storm Country, Mary would make a super-successful career (some would even say one of the most successful careers in Hollywood history) out of playing girls fifteen to twenty to even twenty-five years younger than she. Famously, in a long ago precursor to Keri Russell's own modern day surprise shorning, Mary cut all her famous curls off and, stemming from the quote, "I'm sick of Cinderella parts, of wearing rags and tatters. I want to wear smart clothes and play the lover," put herself in the role of an adult and a lover for her first sound film, Coquette.
- Mary is a member of both the Hollywood and Canadian Walks of Fame.
- In a possible comeback position, Mary turned down an offer to play Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd.
- She had intended to have all of her films destroyed after her death, fearing that no one would care about them. Lucky for all we film fans, she was convinced not to do such a thing.
But it wasn't just acting where Mary left her mark. In 1919, Mary, along with soon-to-be hubby Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and friends Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, the latter of which gave Pickford her first job in Hollywood, formed United Artists, a distribution company that can be considered the first ever independent movie company. United Artists was a successful movie distribution house until its eventual demise and sale to Transamerica (and eventually MGM) in 1967. For Mary and her friends, it was a fun investment. Mary said of the company, "We maniacs had fun and made good pictures and a lot of money. In the early years United Artists was a private golf club for the four of us." In a more modern day piece of trivia, Georgian-born, Irish and English-raised singer/songwriter Katie Melua actually wrote a song on Mary Pickford and the formation of UA. It is called "Mary Pickford Used to Eat Roses" and you can watch the video on YouTube. Pickford and Fairbanks were once the epitome of what it meant to be a Hollywood star, a movie industry power couple. Throwing lavish parties at their appropriately named Pickfair estate in the Hollywood Hills, they were th everything of stardom. Eventually though, Mary would be mostly forgotten by her fans and would spend the rest of her life, from the mid 1930's until her death in 1979, as a recluse in her beloved Pickfair. Just a little thing (5 feet and one half inch - the exact same height as my own lovely wifey) Pickford was a powerhouse in the land of Hollywood - both as an actress and as the shrewdest of businesswomen. She will certainly not be forgotten by this admirer of classic Hollywood. I will leave you with a few of my favourite Mary Pickford quotes, followed by, for no other reason than it's sheer unlikely adorability, a picture of Mary washing a baby bear (!?).
- "Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo."
- On her second husband: "In his private life Douglas always faced a situation in the only way he knew, by running away from it."
- In her old age: "I saw Hollywood born and I've seen it die."