Archive for the ‘silent films’ tag
A STAR IS BORN
Born Gladys Marie Smith, iconic Canadian actress Mary Pickford was born on April 8, 1892 in Toronto, Ontario. Her mother’s name was Charlotte and her father’s name was John. She was the oldest of three children; interestingly, her two younger siblings, Jack and Lottie, would also become successful actors in their own right. In 1895, John abandoned the family and died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1898.
HER ICONIC CAREER
Mary’s acting career came early as she landed a major role in a theatre production of The Silver King (1899) when she was just 7 years old. She would continue to perform in several theatre productions, even appearing in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a theatre production that was named the most popular play of the 19th century.
Not content with merely appearing in theatre productions, Mary had dreams of starring on Broadway. Along with Jack and Lottie, Mary toured around the United States appearing in several small theatre productions. After 6 years of this, she finally landed a supporting role in the Broadway play, The Warrens of Virginia (1907).
In 1909, she auditioned for a role in the D.W Griffith directed movie Pippa Passes. Although she lost the role in the Nickelodeon produced movie, she gained a major fan in D.W. He immediately signed her to his company, The Biograph Company and paid her $10/day – a major increase from the other Biograph actors who were only earning $5/day. That same year (1909), Mary would appear in over 51 films with Biograph. These included Sweet and Twenty (1909) and They Would Elope (1909). She played everything from cleaning women to secretaries to prostitutes. Although Biograph movies did not contain credits, audiences soon began recognizing Mary and she quickly became a fan favourite.
She briefly left D.W’s company, Biograph to work with Carl Laemmle and his company, Independent Movie Pictures Company, but returned to D.W in 1912. That year, she would appear in Friends, The Mender of Nets, The Female of the Species and The New York Hat. The next few years saw Mary appear in Caprice (1913) and Hearts Adrift (1914). She also starred in Tess of the Storm Country (1914) which solidified her status as one of Hollywood’s greatest actors ever.
Not content with merely acting, she formed the film production company, United Artists, along with D.W Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks in 1919. Her next film, Pollyanna (1920) made over $1 million. Her movie Rosita (1923) also grossed well over $1 million at the box office. In 1926 and 1927, Mary stared in the iconic silent films, Sparrows and My Best Girl. In 1929, she appeared in the movie Coquette which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Unfortunately, the arrival of talking movies signalled the end of Mary’s career as she wasn’t able to successfully make the transition. She officially retired in 1933 but continued producing movies with the Marx Brothers.
Mary was married 3 times. Her first marriage was to Owen Moore in 1911. They separated and she began a relationship with Douglas Fairbanks in 1918. She officially divorced Owen in 1920 and married Douglas that same year. In the early 1930s, they separated after Douglas began having affairs and the divorce was finalized in 1936. In 1937, she married Charles Roger and remained married until her death.
DEATH OF A STAR
In 1979, Mary died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 87 years old. She has been honoured several times since her death including receiving a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 1999.
Mary was certainly loved throughout her career. Many believe that she was the most popular woman in the entire world during the 1910s and 1920s.
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