Mary Pickford was “America’s Sweetheart” in the early days of the Silver screen but did you know that she was Canadian and born in my adopted home of Toronto? So technically she would be “Canada’s Sweetheart”.
I also recently discovered thanks to a friend’s post on Instagram that there is a statue and plaque in her honor in downtown Toronto. How exciting!! Here it is:
Location in Toronto (if you ever visit): Northeast corner of University Avenue and Elm Street
Miss Pickford herself 🙂
About Mary-Highlights of the Early Day’s:
Note: for a more detailed description please visit her official website HERE
As you read above, Mary was actually born as Glady’s Marie Smith on April 8, 1892 in Toronto, Canada to John and Charlotte Smith. Her father died when she was young and her mother after being encouraged by a boarder of their home (who was a stage manager for a theatre company), put Glady’s (age 5) and her sister onto the stage.
Soon though the producers only wanted Glady’s and she quickly found herself traveling alone throughout Canada and to New York for work.
By the time Gladys was twelve,” writes Pickford biographer Booton Herndon, “she knew how to travel better than most adults, certainly better than most women of 1905. She knew how to get around in a town she had never seen before, how to get a room at a reasonable price, how to eat cheaply, when to walk rather that spend a nickel for a streetcar.” She was not above sleeping in an overstuffed chair and paying “rent” by doing the shopping and cleaning, saving every penny she could to proudly send home to her mother at the end of each week (Source).
Glady’s Becomes Mary:
In 1907 Mary was cast in the Broadway Play “The Warrens of Virginia“, written by William de Mille and co-starring his younger brother Cecil (image above) where her name was then to be changed forever.
Glady’s name was not “Marquee Worthy” so she adopted the family name Pickford from her maternal grandfather’s name, John Pickford Hennessey and took her middle name, Marie, to become Mary (source). A stars name is born!
Silver Screen Career:
Mary made the move to the movies in 1909 where between the years of 1909 and 1912 she appeared in over 150 short films working with 3 different Movie Companies.
By 1916 Pickford’s popularity had climbed to the point that she was awarded a contract that made her a partner with Zukor (Zukor’s Famous Players Film Company, a studio which eventually became part of Paramount Pictures and who she had been working with since 1913) and they even allowed her to produce her own films (Source).
From 1913-to 1933 she appeared in around 80 more films (give or take a movie or 2 I missed).
In 1919 Pickford teamed with D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks to create United Artists, an organization designed to distribute their own films.
Her First Talkie was the movie “Coquette” in 1929 where she ended winning the Academy award for Best Actress for her performance and it launched Pickford as a competent talkie star.
Her last movie was in 1933 in the Movie “Secrets”, however, she remained active as a producer for several years afterwards (Source).
Selection of her Movie Roles:
1. Mary was married 3 times:
- Owen Moore (1911-1920)
- Douglas Fairbanks (1920-1936)
- Buddy Rogers (1937-1979)
2. The Public preferred to see Pickford as a young girl; as a result, she was often pressured to choose childlike parts to appeal to audiences (Source).
I’m sick of Cinderella parts, of wearing rags and tatters. I want to wear smart clothes and play the lover -Mary Pickford-
3. Pickford was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Source).
4. She had intended to have all of her films destroyed after her death, fearing that no one would care about them. She was convinced not to do this (Source).
5. Became a United States citizen on her marriage to Douglas Fairbanks, but later reclaimed her Canadian citizenship and died an American and Canadian citizen (Source).
6. The house in which she lived in Hollywood for most of her life was nicknamed “Pickfair” (Source).
Mary died in 1979 at the age of 87.
“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.”
Adela Rogers St. Johns, 1981