Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies

Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies

Christel Schmidt

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0813136474

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the early days of cinema, when actors were unbilled and unmentioned in credits, audiences immediately noticed Mary Pickford. Moviegoers everywhere were riveted by her magnetic talent and appeal as she rose to become cinema's first great star.

In this engaging collection, copublished with the Library of Congress, an eminent group of film historians sheds new light on this icon's incredible life and legacy. Pickford emerges from the pages in vivid detail. She is revealed as a gifted actress, a philanthropist, and a savvy industry leader who fought for creative control of her films and ultimately became her own producer.

This beautifully designed volume features more than two hundred color and black and white illustrations, including photographs and stills from the collections of the Library of Congress and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Together with the text, they paint a fascinating portrait of a key figure in American cinematic history.

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no interference), Pickford did have some impact beyond her performance. She chose Marion to write the scenario, and together the two charmed Tourneur into filming at least one sequence (a mud fight) that he initially wanted “nothing to do with.”⁄° The director also accepted one of Pickford’s suggestions on the aesthetic side. One morning she had an idea that a “baby spot,” a lighting technique used in the theater to pick out a character’s face or hands, might brighten a face on film to suggest that

worker in New York City). Yet she returned to Biograph (and took a pay cut) in 1912 because she had become dissatisfied with the quality of her films. By 1915, Pickford was making features for producer Adolph Zukor at the Famous Players Film Company. Her fame had risen to astronomical heights, and she had negotiated a salary of $2,000 a week, an astounding income for the time. Siblings Lottie and Jack, now adults, continued to act with modest success, each earning around $300 a week. Her mother,

the nation’s uno≈cial ambassadors. During their international travels, they were coveted guests of royalty, presidents, and prime ministers. At home, they ruled Hollywood from Pickfair, their Beverly Hills mansion, which became a social center for the cultural elite. By the mid-1920s, newer and younger stars were challenging Pickford’s box-o≈ce supremacy. Several, including Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Gloria Swanson, temporarily won the mantle of movie queen, but Pickford remained an enduring

clothes were key to the art of storytelling. Pickford was surrounded by costumes and dressmaking as a child. Her widowed mother, Charlotte, supported her children as a seamstress; later, when the family began to act in the theater, she cleaned and maintained their stage attire. Indeed, all actors were expected to provide and care for their own costumes, unless they required military uniforms or period fashions, which were rented from an agency. Pickford, who often toured without her mother,

moments. Later, an actor in the Biograph troupe recalled that Pickford’s gift for film acting was innate: “we all saw it as well as Gri≈th.”‡ That said, her breakthrough did not occur in a single film, then flower in a straight line. Nickelodeon films were made in a matter of days, with roles assigned at a moment’s notice. Accordingly, Pickford’s insights waxed and waned as she plunged into “the novelty, the adventure, from day to day, into unknown areas of pantomime and photography.”° She plunged

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