March 6, 2008

Honoring Hen: Mary Pickford

Posted in Film, Life tagged , , at 11:46 pm by Lindsay

Mary PickfordIn 1907, at fifteen years old, Mary Pickford left her home and family in Toronto and moved to New York City to pursue her dream of acting on the stage.  In less than ten years, Mary became the most famous woman in the world. 

Known for her golden curls and youthful, girl-next-door air, Mary starred in such films as Poor Little Rich Girl, A Little Princess, and Coquette, for which she earned the Oscar for Best Actress, but Mary’s achievements were not limited to the screen.

In 1916, she formed the Pickford Film Company and negotiated a deal with Paramount Pictures to release all her films under her own production company.  In an age where the studio system allowed the studios to dictate each and every assignment for all actors, Mary was choosing which projects to take, hand-selecting the cast and crew, and even going behind the camera to direct.  Just three years later, Mary, along with director D.W. Griffith and actors Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, created the independent distribution company United Artists.  Filmmakers were given the unprecedented chance to be free from creative control of the major studios. 

The end of the silent film era also meant an end for Mary’s career as an actress, but she continued in her roles as producer and partner in United Artists.  Along with others, Mary founded the Motion Picture Relief Fund and the affiliated Country House and Hospital which provided emergency assistance and care for those in the motion picture industry. 

“If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you.  You may have a fresh start at any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”  –Mary Pickford

The more I learn about the so-called “studio system” the more I am amazed by Mary’s achievements.  Under this constrictive system, Mary fought for creative control and independence.  She wasn’t content to just be the pretty face in front of the camera.  Her passion for cinema drove her to work hard towards her vision of quality film production.  Today she is remembered as “America’s Sweetheart” of the silent film age, but I’ll remember her as a skilled businesswoman who fought the odds to become a pioneer of the motion picture industry. 

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1 Comment »

  1. tim said,

    Mary Pickford is a national treasure. She was much more than America’s Sweetheart. She was the most famous woman in the world.


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