Good Bye to Mary Pickford, America’s Bride

Behind that angelic face framed by long blond ringlets was an alert and agile mind. S u innate commercial instinct allowed him to negotiate his artistic contracts, transforming the business model in Hollywood towards the future ‘star system‘. She went from being a talented Hollywood star nicknamed ‘America’s Bride’ to answering yet another nickname ‘The Bank of America’.

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That face framed by long blond ringlets that directed its naive blue gaze to the screen dazzling legions of fans who fell exhausted at its feet responded to the name of ‘Baby Gladys’. At just five years old, he made his debut with the Valentine Company in his native Toronto at the hands of his mother, Charlotte. Her father John Charles Smith, a tender drunkard whom the little girl adored, had died in a work accident and Mother Charlotte, without resources, had been forced to enlist her children in show business in order to survive. Thus the Smith troupe travels the country with traveling companies performing in plays. Miraculously they manage to get ahead.
Gladys, the youngest, is undoubtedly the one with the most scenic talent and soon stands out among her siblings. At only eight years old, she is already a veteran with many tables. The family moves to Manhattan, where they share a room with the Gish family, the birthplace of another rising star, Lillian, who will become their most faithful friend. Mary debuts at the Belasco Theater on Broadway in a play by William de Mille, The Virginia Burrows . Its producer, David Belasco, He succeeds in changing the name of the young actress, who is then 15 years old, to Mary Pickford, inspired by his middle name Mary, imposed by a Catholic priest after saving himself from diphtheria at the age of four, and by the surname of his maternal grandfather, John Pickford Hennesey.
Two years later, Mary landed in Los Angeles. Her acting talent reaches the ears of film pioneer DW Griffith, who hires her for a small role playing a 10-year-old girl in several shorts titled Her First Biscuits , from Griffith’s production company, The Biograph Company. Captivated by the naturalness of the young woman in front of the cameras, Griffith gives her his pr imer role as the protagonist in The Violin Maker of Cremona. Mary is only 17 years old and already earns $ 10 a day. That same year the new star appeared for the first time in the press: the New York Dramatic Mirror praises her performance, highlighting her as a rising artist. Mary becomes the ‘Biograph Girl’ and goes on to earn 5,000 dollars a year, a very high salary at the time, even for a celluloid star. From the hand of Griffith he appeared in no less than 100 films between 1909 and 1910. ‘The girl with the golden curls’ is the undisputed star of the ‘nickelodeons’, old neighborhood cinemas. His name heads the cast of all the tapes, his fans number in the thousands. Had been born ‘the bride of America’.
Mary, hungry for notoriety, demands that his name appear on the screen. She is ambitious and wants to charge more and signs for Independent Motion Picture Company, which pays you $ 175 a week. In this company he interprets Your first misunderstanding with a young heartthrob, Owen Moore. One fine day, Mary orders a long dress and high heels from the wardrobe department and secretly marries Owen in Jersey City. It is January 1911, the star is nineteen years old. Her mother ‘celebrates’ the marriage with a tantrum that lasts for three long days.
But his commercial smell She goes back into orbit: determined to earn more, she denounces the company (the germ of the future Universal) to free herself from her contract, claiming that when she signed it she was a minor. Once released, she began working at Majestic, with whom she agreed to a contract of $ 225 per week, as well as a job for her husband Owen.
Mary knows very well what she wants, she will double this figure a year later when she signs another contract this time with Zukor at Famous Players. For the ambitious actress, it is never enoughAware of its value in front of the public, it demands better and better conditions in its contracts and once obtained, it does not hesitate to ask for salary increases again and again. A) Yes In 1914, he gets his salary to reach the millionaire figure of 1,000 dollars a week. That little actress of little more than five feet tall, had a commercial instinct that makes her lhighest paid actress in the world. Nicknamed the Bank of America, over time, thanks to her innate negotiating talent, Mary would receive $ 10,000 a week plus half the profits from her films, and she can also choose her own projects, screenwriters and directors, something unheard of to date. The silent film lady baptized with the nickname of America’s bride, in 1918 founds her own production company, Mary Pickford Film Corporation, the actress is quite a potentate.

At a party he meets the gallant Douglas Fairbanks, they are both married. But Mary recognizes in him the love of her life and decides to marry him. One month after getting a divorce, on March 28, 1920, she made him her husband.


One of your hunting lodges will be your home. Pickfair, named after the conjunction of the surnames of both, will become the headquarters of the famous film couple. Along with Fairbanks, Pickford will undertake his greatest achievements. Mary’s entrepreneurial spirit involves the actor in her projects, so together they create with Charles Chaplin United Artists, the company that would revolutionize the film business by facilitating the access of independent filmmakers to the theater, until then monopolized by the studios themselves. The actors were now their own owners. The star system Hollywood had changed forever.


While Mary continues acting, in 1922 she hires Lubistch to direct Rosita.


Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbancks greet from one of the windows of the Ritz Hotel during their visit to Barcelona during the first fortnight of June 1925 (Own)

In 1926 he starred Sparrows, her first suspenseful performance and her last as a child. The actress turned 34, fed up with having to play that role, very far from her reality, decides to cut her long golden hair, a cinematographic icon, the The New York Times pick up the news on the front page.
In 1927 the marriage undertakes a new challenge: Together with 36 personalities from the world of cinema, they founded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A month earlier they had become the first stars to print their hands and feet in the concrete on the esplanade of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

In 1930 that same Academy awarded him a Oscar for his first performance in talkies, in Coquette. Despite obtaining the award, critics do not treat the artist well, who decides to remain silent forever in movie theaters in 1933 after interpreting Secrets .

Mary Picford starred in 'Coquette' in 1929, which would earn her an Oscar for her first sound film performance

Mary Picford starred in ‘Coquette’ in 1929, which would earn her an Oscar for her first sound film performance

At the same time, his relationship with Fairbanks also went into crisis, the couple divorced in 1935.
After various forays into radio and film, in the role of producer, she retired permanently.
A year later, she married fellow actor Buddy Rogers, twelve years her junior, with whom she adopted two children.
Since then her life changes completely, secluded in Pickfair, she hardly leaves her bedroom where she receives very few visitors, only her family and her dear friend Lillian Gish. In 1976 he was awarded the honorary Oscar ‘for his contribution to the film industry’, the actress refuses to pick him up personally, a camera sent by the Academy picks up her brief message of thanks at her home.

Three years later on May 29, 1979, he died at his home in Santa Monica, California. He is 87 years old. The eternal virgin in love he had known how to withdraw in time: ‘Time passes, and the public will compare me to modern actresses and I want to prevent this from happening‘, his memory remains unchanged in all lovers of the seventh art.