Mary Pickford Biography

This biography about Mary Pickford, America's Sweetheart, was known to the American public as a sweet innocent child, but in reality she was Hollywood's first female mogul.

Mary Pickford was born Gladys Marie Smith on April 8, 1892, though in later years she would try to shave a year off her age. Her father was an alcoholic who could not hold a job, and he died when Gladys was a child. Gladys' mother pushed her children into show business for financial reasons, and Gladys was soon a success on Broadway. The producer David Belasco christened her "Mary Pickford."

Her film career began in 1908, when she met D.W. Griffith, head of Biograph Studios. She began working at Biograph with her friends, Lillian and Dorothy Gish. Griffith specialized in films featuring the "damsel in distress" stereotype, and both Gish sisters played it to perfection. When Mary felt Griffith was paying more attention to the Gishes than to her, she left Biograph.

By this time, 1910, Mary showed that she was already a savvy businesswoman by hopping from studio to studio-- wherever the most money was. She continued playing "little girl" roles in films such as "New York Hat" (1912) and "Daddy Long Legs" (1919) At this time, she also married actor Owen Moore. The marriage didn't last too long, however, because on a war bond tour during World War I, Mary met a man who was to have a profound affect on both her personal and professional life.

Douglas Fairbanks was the biggest male star in Hollywood. He was the first "action" star, thrilling audiences by swinging on ropes, jumping across high buildings, and engaging in sword fights. Mary found him irresistible, and after divorcing their respective spouses, they married in 1920. They named their Hollywood estate PickFair, and were reknowned for their glittering parties.

It was at around this time that Mary formed United Artists with Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and her former boss D.W. Griffith. United Artists was a revolutionary concept: allowing filmmakers to have total artistic control over their films from conception through post-production. It also meant that artists and writers could control their own financial future, rather than having to kowtow to exploitative studio bosses. Her decision to help found United Artist would eventually make Mary Pickford a millionaire several times over. She was not as lucky in her personal life, however, and she and Fairbanks divorced in 1929.

Though Mary won an Oscar that same year for a "grown-up" role in "Coquette," audiences never really accepted her as an adult, and she retired in 1933. She married charles "Buddy" Rogers, an actor and musician, in 1937. She devoted much of her time to charity, and also helped to incorporate Beverly Hills. In 1976, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Mary its liftime achievemant award. She was known to drink to excess in her later years, and on May 29, 1979, Mary Pickford died of a cerebral hemmorage at the age of 87.

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