Friday, November 18, 2005

America's Sweetheart was Canadian...

This is a special nod to the North...apparently, there are some Canucks who wanted to see some Canadian representation in the smart and beautiful listings.

That said, today I bring you 'America's Sweetheart.'

Ummm...Shawn...didn't you just say you were taking us up North? Yeah, I did. That's why I have to tell you that America's Sweetheart was Canadian.

Gladys Marie Smith was not only adored by the masses, she was also a keen business woman. Born on April 9, 1893, in Toronto, Ontario, young Gladys was destined to prove that child actors don't all grow up to be Danny Bonaduce.

She started acting in a Toronto stock company and from there went on to some leading roles in New York. She began her film career in 'Her First Biscuits' in 1907. She was directed by D.W. Griffith (who went on to direct the seminal, 'Birth of a Nation'). By 1909, she had starred in 'Mrs. Jones Entertains,' under the name Dorothy Nicholson. She appeared in 51 films that year. She was working under Griffith at Biograph Company. In 1910, she appeared in 49 films. In 1911, she left Biograph and went to work with Carl Laemmle (the father of Universal Studios). She returned to Biograph after a year and went on to work with other companies, directors and producers, including the legendary Adolf Zukor.

Anyone who didn't see young Gladys' drive and ambition, must not have been looking. She clearly had plenty of both. If you count backward from 1919 to her birth in 1893, you'll come up with the age she was when she joined two of the biggest names in Hollywood and founded what would become one of the big studios. Who was this plucky 26 year old actress?

Gladys Marie Smith was better known to millions as Mary Pickford, or simply, America's Sweetheart. She was one of the biggest names in silent movies. Her place at the top of the Hollywood heap was challenged by only a few. Two of those fellow actors - Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks - became her partners in the founding of United Artists. Fairbanks was, later, her husband for 16 years.

Her silent movie work made her a star. She starred in many silents, including: 'The New York Hat,' 'Tess of Stormy Country,' Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,' 'Poor Little Rich Girl,' and 'Daddy Long Legs.'

By the year 1916. Pickford was making nearly $150,000 a year - the average family income was about $2,000 a year. She earned $2,000 a week and then received a $10,000 bonus at the completion of each film.

It was also, during this time that Pickford began working with a young female screenwriter, Frances Marion (*stay tuned for more on Frances Marion), who would become one of Pickford's closest friends and one of the most highly regarded writers in Hollywood history. This is just an example of Pickford's near obsession with surrounding herself with the best talent in the industry.

Her performance in the sound film, 'Coquette' cemented her position in the pantheon of Hollywood deities. She won an Academy Award for that performance - the first one given for an actress in a talkie. Pickford was one of 36 founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She and her husband, Fairbanks, were the first two stars to officially put their hand and footprints in the cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater in 1927.

In addition to founding United Artists and helping start the Academy, Pickford and Fairbanks built a lavish mansion, known as Pickfair, which became a center of the Hollywood social scene and the scene of many raucous parties.

Pickford retired from acting in 1934, after making 'Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove.' After divorcing Fairbanks, Pickford went on to marry Charles 'Buddy' Rogers ('Wings,' 'My Best Girl'). Although she is widely remembered for her sweet, and often Pollyanaish, portrayals of heroines, Mary Pickford was also the most powerful and influential woman in Hollywood history.

She received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1976. She died in Santa Monica on May 29, 1979. For more information about Pickford's life and charitable works, go to Mary Pickford.com.

5 comments:

K said...

You have certainly not disappointed me! Though, I'm beginning to wonder if you weren't born in the wrong era...

Just a sidenote: I didn't comment on the previous posts mostly because I hate espousing cliches (no matter how relevant they may seem to me) and that's about all I could come up with as a response to what you are going through. I know better than anyone that I am in no position to offer advice ;o)

I wish you nothing but the best on your journey and I'm glad our paths have crossed (however randomly, and anonymously - at least on my part) along the way.

Shawn said...

I've known for a long time that I was born in the wrong era...oh well, whatcha gonna do?

The Zombieslayer said...

I didn't see Chaplin recently, but if I remember correctly, she was a character in that movie.

I'm a big fan of Chaplin's work and that's how I know about her. Very cool post.

Josh said...

I still have your copy of Chaplin!

Shawn said...

j-tastic - You may definitely consider it a gift...all my friends should have at least one of my movies in their house...

Oh crap, if I give it too you though, that means you get to pilfer another...sometimes I don't think these things through...

Ah well. Gift it is...