Mary Pickford, head and shoulders portrait, holding flowers, facing front, 1915.

Full Name: Mary Pickford

Birth Date: April 8, 1892

Death Date: May 29, 1979

Location: Pickford-Fairbanks Studios, Hollywood, California, USA

Monument Type: Historic/Residence

Mary Pickford’s background did not predict her future as a celebrity. An irony was that Mary Pickford, dubbed “America’s Sweetheart,” came from Canada. In April 1892, Charlotte Hennessey Smith gave birth to a girl called Gladys Louise Smith. Mary Pickford, the child’s professional moniker, was what millions would recognize her by, which she took up after her fifteenth birthday. Mary was a big sister to a girl, Charlotte, and a boy, John. Mary’s early childhood was rough. John Charles Smith, the father, was not a stable provider, and he would pass away in 1898. Mary’s mother experienced difficulties in making ends meet in Toronto.

Mary launched her profession as a performer during girlhood; she was seven. Mary had two parts in the gig entitled The Silver King. Her acting chops shined portraying two characters in the play. As Mary navigated the acting industry, her mother strove to put Mary in a position to master acting and become successful. Mary dedicated a chunk of her girlhood to wowing audiences in her country of birth along with the U.S. Mary’s siblings also toiled as actors. The hustle paid off when Mary, now fifteen, reached Broadway; she attained a character in The Warrens of Virginia. This was when the “Mary Pickford” moniker sprouted up for the budding actress.

Ultimately, Mary would shine in movies. She was particularly associated with portraying girlhood during her time as a film actress. She started gracing films during 1909, and Mary’s celebrity power soared during the 1910s. The Boston Daily Globe reported that she was “without question the highest-priced film star in the United States” in February 1915. Mary’s notable movies included Hearts Adrift (1914), two iterations of Tess of the Storm Country (1914) & (1922), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), Stella Maris (1918), Pollyanna (1920), and Coquette (1929). Mary garnered a Best Actress Oscar, and, due to her long-standing impact on the craft, she obtained an honorary Oscar as well. She also espoused women’s voting rights and assisted in increasing enthusiasm for American, along with Canadian, endeavors in World War I as well as World War II.

Before her nineteenth birthday, Mary became Owen Moore’s wife. Yet it was Mary’s union to Douglas Fairbanks, the renowned actor, that enthralled the world. Even though the icons were divorced individuals entering into a second marriage, devotees lauded the power couple. The happiness did not last, as the pair would split. Mary would join a third and final man in marriage. She remained Charles “Buddy” Rogers’s wife until her death in 1979.

“A Century of Hollywood Events.” PBS American Experience, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/pickford-chronology/
Feeley, Kathleen A. Mary Pickford: Hollywood and the New Woman. Boulder: Westview Press, 2016.
“Miss Pickford in Film to Aid Canada Drive.” Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1943, 12.
“Movie Salaries: Are Not So Large as Is Supposed.” Boston Daily Globe, February 21, 1915, SM15.

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