MARY PICKFORD

 
Mary Pickford.jpg
 

By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Mary Pickford.

Born Gladys Smith in 1892, she began her career as a child actor and performer on the Vaudeville circuit. She won her first Broadway role at age fifteen, but the producer stipulated that she needed to change her name to the more mellifluous Mary Pickford. She caught the eye of D.W. Griffith, who hired her for his new silent film production company Biograph. She appeared in a staggering 51 films in 1909 alone.

Mary moved to Hollywood in its earliest days and quickly became one of the biggest stars in the world (second in box office sales only to Charlie Chaplin). By 1916, she was described as "the best known woman who has ever lived, the woman who was known to more people and loved by more people than any other woman that has been in all history,” and able to command a salary of $10,000 per week in addition to 50% of each of her film’s profits.

In 1918, after refusing the terms of renewal in her contract with Adolph Zukor, he offered her $250,000 to leave the film industry altogether, worried she would end up in a rival studio. She refused, and the following year became the first woman to found a film production company, United Artists, alongside D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks. She married the latter in 1920, after divorcing her first husband that same year and agreeing to pay him $100,000 in alimony.

From here on out, Mary produced each and every one of her films, selecting the cast and crew, and with final say throughout the screenwriting and editing processes. She won the second ever Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Coquette, her first talking picture. She retired from acting in 1933, though she continued to produce movies over the next few decades before leaving United Artists in 1956.

In retirement, Mary grew reclusive, withdrawing to her famous Beverly Hills mansion nicknamed Pickfair. At the age of 67, while testifying in a court case regarding a television station she owned, she swore under oath that she was “21 going on 20.” She received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1976, appearing in a short filmed clip from within Pickfair. She died three years later at the age of 87.

“What are you boys doing with my company?”

“I am no longer in pictures for money. I am in them because I love them. I am not in vain. I do not care about giving a smashing personal performance. My one ambition is to create fine entertainment.”

“No one ever worked for me. Nor did I ever work for anybody. We worked together. “

“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

“A spirit stronger than myself has always whipped me to action. It was as though some outside force lashed me from one step to another.”

“The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.”

“I was forced to live far beyond my years when just a child, now I have reversed the order and I intend to remain young indefinitely.”

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