In her heyday popularly known as “America’s Sweetheart”, Mary Pickford was a legendary film actress with a career spanning 50 years. She is one of the pioneers of early Hollywood. Mary is considered one of the cornerstones of the many improvements that were to be seen on the silver screen during her time.
She was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Mary remained relevant throughout her career, which took place in a time of constant change. We take a closer look at some of the lesser-known facts about her.
The “girl with the curls” was born on April 8, 1892, at 211 University Avenue, Toronto, Canada. The fame she later attained made it possible that her birthplace was marked with a historical marker – a bust of the actress is placed not too far from her birthplace.
Her birth name was Gladys Louise Smith; Mary Pickford was the name she had chosen for her profession. She was born as the eldest of three children of her parents, John Charles Smith and Charlotte Hennessey. Her younger siblings, Charlotte “Lottie” Smith, and John Charles Smith, also became successful actors later. Unfortunately, her father was an alcoholic and left his young family. He died on February 11, 1898, from a fatal blood clot, which was caused by an accident at work.
Gladys began acting even before she was ten years old and played small roles as a boy and girl. She also played melodramas in the Toronto Valentine Company. Her career in her native Canada ended with the leading role of Little Eva in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Gladys and her mother, together with her younger siblings, toured the USA constantly for many tedious years before she decided to try her hand at Broadway with a success or exit mentality. There she took the stage name Mary Pickford, and the name stuck with her. She made her Broadway debut in The Warrens of Virginia. She soon made contact with D.W. Griffith, a director, and head of the American Biography Company.
Mary Pickford got involved in movies; in an era of short films, she managed to appear in 40 films (as of 1909). She moved to California when Griffith shifted his work in this direction. Her silent film hits include Sunnybrook Farm and Poor Little Rich Girl, both in 1917. Together with D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Mary founded the film company United Artists in 1919.
In 1927 Mary Pickford helped found the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. When Mary starred in her first sound film Coquette in 1929, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for the role she played. Her last film was Secrets in 1933.
7 Lesser Known Facts About Mary Pickford
1. Mary Pickford had more than 40 years in her career before she had her first television appearance. Mary was at the height of her career in an era of short films, and she had appeared in hundreds of films, but her first television appearance came in the early 1950s. At the first television Oscars, Mary Pickford was honored by Cecil B. DeMille’s Oscar for Best Film for the World’s Greatest Show.
2. Mary and her second husband, Douglas Fairbank, hosted legendary dinner parties in their huge mansion nicknamed Pickfair. Some foreign dignitaries even asked for invitations during their visit. Some of these grand dinners had guests such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Amelia Earhart, H.G. Wells, Albert Einstein, and even the Crown Prince of Japan among others. Pickfair was sitting on an 18-hectare property in the city of Beverly Hills, California. Mary Pickford spent most of her life here.
3. She was the first person besides her husband Fairbanks to leave her handprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This happened on April 30, 1927.
4. Mary Pickford’s siblings, who were also actors, both died before her. Her little brother Jack died when he was just 36 years old, and Lottie, who was only a year younger, died of an unexpected heart attack at the age of 43.
5. Mary had intended that all her films should be destroyed at her death for fear that no one would take care of her. However, her opinion on this subject was changed.
6. She was Joan Crawford’s mother-in-law. Joan was married to her son Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
7. Fairbanks and Pickford were friends with Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford. A picture of Mary hung in their house. It was signed by her with “Mary Pick-A-Ford”, around 1932.