Friday, March 6, 2009

Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford (1892-1979) was one of the world's first "movie stars." She was also an important leader in the film industry. As a young actress in New York when film was in its infancy (and looked down upon by the upper classes), Pickford worked with D.W. Griffith (who gave her the name Mary Pickford). She was the first to realize that actors looked better with lighting from below, and she is also credited with attempting one of the first "close up" shots in film. Noting how certain actors seemed to attract larger audiences than others, she fought to be paid a portion of the box office profits and not just a weekly wage as was the practice.

Along with her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks, and actor Charlie Chaplin, Pickford formed the first studio run by actors themselves: United Artists. She also helped found the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Canada. Her father died when she was young. Her mother supported Gladys and her younger brother and sister by renting out a room in their house. One of their boarders was a theater manager who gave Pickford her fist role on stage. Soon, the whole family was working the theatrical circuit, eventually winding up in New York City. Her mother encouraged her to apply at the Biograph studio when money ran short. The first person she met there was D.W. Griffith.

Pickford had a tumultuous life--full of excitement, hard work, triumph and tragedy. Her last silent film was an adaptation of the Kathleen Norris novel, _My Best Girl_. Released in 1927, the film is a miraculous vision to behold. Pickford is stylish, cute, funny, and an extremely fascinating actor. Her co-star and love interest in the film would become her third husband.

No comments: