Mary Pickford (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979) enjoyed a career that spanned five decades. A movie pioneer, she co-founded Pickford-Fairbanks Studios and United Artists. Furthermore, she was one of the thirty-six founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
During her career, Mary Pickford was known as “America’s Sweetheart”, “The Girl with the Curls”, and the “Queen of Movies”. One of the earliest stars to receive a billing under her own name, Mary enjoyed great popularity in the silent movie era of the 1910s and 1920s.
Mary Pickford defined the ingénue role in motion pictures. She received the Academy Award for Best Actress for her first sound movie role as Norma Besant in Coquette, 1929. However, the arrival of the “talkies” signalled a decline in her career.
In 1909, Mary Pickford appeared in fifty-one films, most of them shorts. She starred in fifty-two features throughout her career. However, she didn’t adapt to the arrival of sound. She said of the “talkies” – “Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo.”
Mary Pickford retired from movie acting in 1933. An astute businesswomen and producer throughout her career, she switched her focus to life behind the camera. A co-founder of United Artists, she finally sold her remaining shares in that company in 1956, for $3 million.
Mary Pickford married three times. First, to Owen Moore, a silent film actor, and an alcoholic. Second, and most famously, to Douglas Fairbanks. Their “marriage of the century” took place on March 28, 1920, after a secret relationship. Later, the couple were referred to as the “King and Queen of Hollywood”. And third to actor and band leader Charles “Buddy” Rogers, star of the highly acclaimed 1927 movie Wings.
After a glittering career, the lights dimmed on Mary Pickford later in life. Her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks and the end of the silent film era induced depression. Like her father before her, she turned to alcohol for comfort. Owning the rights to her early silent movies, Mary intended to burn them at her death but, thankfully, she donated them to the American Film Institute instead.