Mary Pickford, Actress, born Gladys Marie Smith, b. April 8, 1893 in Toronto, Canada. d. May 29, 1979

The most important thing to note about Mary Pickford is that unlike many actors of the silent film era she did not miss out on disco.

Young Gladys was very young when her father passed on. Because she was a very cute child, she was brought along by travelling road companies who performed plays and other entertainments from town to town. They called her "Baby Gladys." When she was 14, she was hanging around in New York when producer David Belasco cast her in the Broadway play The Warrens of Virginia and changed her name to Mary Pickford. I suppose "Gladys Smith" wasn't exactly eye-catching on the marquee. She was, however, the adorable little all-American girl on stage and audiences fell in love with her (sorry, this was before the era of Farrah posters, so please return to your seat).

Her appeal and ability to flirt extensively gained her the attention of Hollywood director D.W. Griffith and in 1909 she made her first film appearance in The Lonely Villa. Her starting rate of pay was five dollars a day, but the next day of shooting she was bumped up to a whopping ten dollars a day. Soon she would become one of the biggest draws in Griffith's big deck of Hollywood cards.

Griffith's Biograph Studios would churn out dozens of Mary Pickford vehicles on an annual basis and she became the first true Hollywood superstar. Her films were pirated, copied and sold illegally all over the world. She did not allow her sudden stature as the first queen of Hollywood to slip past her and used it to gain increasing control over production and the selection of film projects. As such, she was the first actress to be able to turn down projects and be taken seriously when suggesting changes.

In 1916 Mary Pickford decided it was time for a little change of scenery and jumped off Griffith's ship and signed up with Adolph Zukor's "Famous Players Company." Their plan was to charge theaters premiums to show Pickford's films and in return paid her inconceivable amounts of money. At first, they paid her $10,000 a week and then $350,000 per picture. We are talking from 1916 - 1919 here, please try not to forget, so Mary Pickford, or Gladys Smith, or whatever her name was could afford to buy broaches at the jewelry store on a whim. She became the first millionaire in Hollywood history.

By 1919 no one could afford Mary Pickford any longer, not at the prices she commanded. Another actor, Charlie Chaplin, was in the same boat. So, with the help of Pickford's husband Douglas Fairbanks and our old friend D.W. Griffith, they founded United Artists and made their own pictures.

Well, Mary was becoming disenchanted. This time it was with her "All American Girl" persona in the movies (after all, she was from Toronto, but anyway). After a series of cute films, culminating with Pollyanna (in which the 27 year old Pickford was cast as a twelve year old), she set her sights on more adult roles and insisted that she be taken seriously.

In 1929, Pickford would win her first and only Best Actress Academy Award for her role in Coquette and her little girl roles were left in the past. However, her career would not last much longer. In 1935 she split with Douglas Fairbanks and then in 1953 she joined with Charlie Chaplin to buy out the other partners in United Artists and then turned around and sold the company for a tidy profit.

After her retirement from the movies, Mary Pickford went into another side of Hollywood, the establishment of charities to help those from the film industry who were tossed aside and left without any benefits to speak of.

Through her own choice, Pickford's films remained out of the public eye for decades, and as such her star diminished over time. Most people have no idea who she was or what she represented. Still, her legacy remains, if not in the forefront of Hollywood history than perhaps where it matters most, in its soul.

Some information researched at,
Silent Film Actors Who Experienced Disco While Still Alive by Barry Travalenti
and a lot of other sources I will tell you about when you are older. A lot older.

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