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Popularly referred to as “America’s Sweetheart” in her prime, Mary Pickford was a legendary film actress with a career that spanned 50 years. She is one of the pioneers in early Hollywood. Mary is seen as a cornerstone of the many improvements that were seen during her time on the screen.
She was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Mary remained relevant all through her career that lasted during a period 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 the 8th of April, 1892 at 211 University Avenue, Toronto, Canada. The fame she later went on to achieve made it possible that her birthplace was marked by a historical marker – a bust of the actress is sculpted and displayed not too far from her place of birth.
Her birth name was Gladys Louise Smith; Mary Pickford was the name she had chosen for her profession. She was born the eldest of three kids to parents, John Charles Smith and Charlotte Hennessey. Her younger siblings, Charlotte “Lottie” Smith, and John Charles Smith also went on to become successful actors as well. Unfortunately, her father was an alcoholic and abandoned his young family. He passed away on February 11, 1898, from a fatal blood clot caused by a workplace accident.
Gladys began her acting before she had even turned ten, starring in small roles as a boy and girl. She did also act melodramas with Toronto’s Valentine Company. Her career in her native Canada was capped with the starring role of Little Eva in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Gladys and her mother, along with her younger siblings constantly toured the US for many painstaking years before she decided to try her hand out at Broadway with a succeed or quit mentality. It was there she took the stage name of Mary Pickford and the name stuck with her. Her Broadway debut came in The Warrens of Virginia. She soon linked up with D.W. Griffith, a director and the head of American Biography Company.
Mary got involved in films; in an era of short films, she managed to appear in 40 films as at 1909. She moved to California when Griffith moved his work that way. Some of her silent film hits include Sunnybrook Farm and Poor Little Rich Girl both in 1917. Alongside D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Mary founded the film company, United Artists in 1919.
In 1927, Mary Pickford helped to establish the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. When Mary starred in her first talkie, 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 was more than 40 years into her career before her first television appearance. Mary was at her peak in an era of short films and she had appeared in hundreds of films but her first TV appearance came in the early 1950’s. At the first televised Oscars, Mary Pickford was on the one to hand Cecil B. DeMille the award for the Best Picture Oscar for The Greatest Show on Earth.
2. Mary and her second husband, Douglas Fairbank hosted legendary dinner parties at their massive mansion nicknamed Pickfair. Some foreign dignitaries even requested invites when visiting. Some of those awesome dinners had guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Amelia Earhart, H.G. Wells, Albert Einstein and even the Crown Prince of Japan amongst others. Pickfair sat on an 18-acre expanse of real estate in the city of Beverly Hills, California. Mary Pickford here for most of her life.
3. She was the first person alongside her husband, Fairbanks to leave her handprints at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This was on April 30, 1927.
4. The siblings of Mary Pickford who were actors as well both passed away before she did. Her little brother Jack died when he was just 36 and Lottie who was just a year younger died from an unexpected heart attack at age 43.
5. Mary had intended that all her films be destroyed at her passing, fearing no one would care about them. Her mind was, however, changed on the subject.
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, son of Henry Ford. A picture of Mary hung in their home. It was signed by her saying “Mary Pick-A-Ford”, c. 1932.