April 8 – Happy Birthday, Mary Pickford

Posted on April 8, 2017

We may think of her as Mary Pickford, "America's Sweetheart" and "the Girl with the Curls," but she was born on this date in 1892 in Canada and named Gladys Louise Smith. 

This star grew up in a theatre family. Her mother and two siblings toured the U.S., traveling by railroad, acting in plays that were not all that wonderful, and not earning a whole lot while doing so. 

Pickford was tired of the poverty, but she gave herself just one more summer tour in the hopes that she would land a good part and "make it big."

And guess what? She and her family did end up in a fairly good Broadway play. This was the point at which Gladys Smith took on the stage name Mary Pickford.

After that play ended its run, Pickford was again looking for work, and she was given a screen test for a film. Pickford realized: This. Is. It! 

She felt that acting in movies would be better and more "her thing" than stage acting, which at the time was very stylized.

The screen test was with Biograph Company director D. W. Griffith, and he thought about Pickford: This. Is. It!

He thought she had star quality, and although other actors in his company worked for $5 a day, he started her at $10 a day!

Pickford wasn't an immediate star with only leading roles, though. She played the lead at times - but at other times she eagerly played women of all nationalities and occupations. She played mothers and young single ladies - she played secretaries and scrubwomen and charwomen - she got into as many movies as possible.

How many movies do you suppose that would be?

In 1909, it was 51 movies! Almost ONE A WEEK!!!

All of this was in New York, but with cold weather during the winter, Biograph and other studios went west, to Southern California, for the winter. There they could shoot more days - less rain, no snow, more sunlight. 

Also, at the time, actors' names were not listed in movie credits! (Can you believe it?) But audiences picked out Pickford (see what I did there?) because of her "golden curls," and she became more known and popular than most actors. 

It wasn't too long before her name, at least, did appear on screen. And she got the nickname "Queen of the Movies"!

With that start in the movie biz, Pickford was able to became a writer, director, and producer as well as an actor. She co-founded the film studio United Artists, and she was one of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

It's nice to know that a woman got to have that much power and influence in the earliest days of the movies!

No comments:

Post a Comment