The Life and Career of Canadian-American Film Actress, Mary Pickford

Gladys Mary Smith was born in 1892, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From the mere age of five she knew that she wanted to act. She began her journey on stages in her hometown and after ten years, set her eyes for Broadway. Here is where she coined her stage name Mary Pickford. After her first and only show - The Warrens of Virginia - Pickford moved easily over to film. She began working for Biograph's head director D.W. Griffith in his studios in New York.

Pickford had caught the movie bug and transitioned with Griffith when he moved his studios out to LA. There she became America's Sweetheart and one of the first ever "Movie Stars". Her young features and stunning beauty influenced directors to come up with characters and plot lines for those characters. Changing movies to the way know now. Alongside her looks her talent also entranced audiences, making her a household name and creating a following, which we see very often today with "fangirling” and the obsessive tendencies.

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Thus without Mary Pickford and the Star System movies would be more about the company rather than who was in them.

United Artists came about in 1919 by D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and none other than Mary Pickford. United Artists was a producing and distributing company that made very popular films with stars like Buster Keaton and Gloria Swanson. Despite UA not being vertically integrated they kept up with the big production companies and has kept running to this day.

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In the beginning each star would produce 5 films a year on their own and then UA would distribute them. In doing so each of the leaders found their niche within the company. Pickford turned out to be in charge of the business aspect. A rare position for a woman during this time, but Pickford excelled. She kept everything in check as the company's reputation grew to new and extreme heights. Pickford helped with the survival of United Artists and helped it grow to the company we now see today. Without Pickford's contribution movies such as Midnight Cowboy, Skyfall or Fiddler on the Roof would not have been made.

During the 1930s Hollywood began going crazy, scandal was everywhere and the public domain was gobbling it up. Stars in Hollywood were specifically targeted, many lost their limelight due to crippling images the press was putting out about them. Pickford was one of the many to fall victim to the tabloids. Her scandal was that of divorce. Before working with Douglas Fairbanks, Pickford was married to Owen Moore. Soon after creating UA together Fairbanks and Pickford had nothing but eyes for each other. Pickford got divorced from Moore and quickly latched with Fairbanks. The media called her a floozy. Even though many began to love the first ever film "power couple" the beginning was hard, as Pickford lost some of her "sweetness". With this divorce and various other tragic events the 13 points were created by Will Hays and the MPPDA which was the first ever censoring company. If not for Pickford and many other scandals, censoring would have taken a different path and changed movies drastically.

Pickford and her early contributions to the cinematic industry were nothing short of necessary. From being America's Sweetheart, to running a business, to being apart of one of the first power couples, Mary Pickford has fought a valiant battle to be on top. Creating a footprint in the journey the movie enterprise has gone on to get where it is today.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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The Life and Career of Canadian-American Film Actress, Mary Pickford. (2023, Jan 13). Retrieved from

The Life and Career of Canadian-American Film Actress, Mary Pickford essay
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