Mary Pickford

Photo of Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford was an Academy Award-winning Canadian-born motion picture star and co-founder of United Artists, known as "America's Sweetheart," "Little Mary" and "the girl with the golden curls." She was one of the first Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and one of film's greatest pioneers regardless of nationality or background.

She was a seminal influence in the development of film acting. Because her international fame was triggered by moving images, she is a watershed figure in the history of modern celebrity. And, as silent film's most important performer and producer, her contract demands were central to shaping the Hollywood industry.

After retiring from the screen, Pickford developed alcoholism, the addiction that had afflicted her father. Other alcoholics in the family included her first husband, Owen Moore; her mother Charlotte; and her younger siblings, Lottie and Jack. Charlotte died of cancer in the early 30s. Within a few years, Lottie and Jack died of alcohol-related causes. These deaths, her divorce from Fairbanks, and the decimation of silent film left Pickford deeply depressed. Her relationship to her adopted children, Roxanne and Ronald, was turbulent at best, and each left Pickfair at an early age. Gradually, Pickford became a recluse, remaining almost entirely at Pickfair, allowing visits only from Lillian Gish, her stepson Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and a few select others. In the mid-1960s, she often received visitors only by telephone, speaking to them from her bedroom. Buddy Rogers often gave guests tours of Pickfair, including views of a genuine western bar she had bought for Douglas Fairbanks, and a portrait of Pickford in the drawing room. Painted at the height of her fame, it emphasizes her girlish beauty and spun-gold curls. A print of this image now hangs in the Library of Congress.