Illustration by Maria Manhattan
Mary Pickford, “America’s Sweetheart,” was born Gladys Louise Smith on April 8, 1892 in Toronto, Canada. She began acting at the age of five. Supremely confident, her film career took off in 1909, when she met film director D.W. Griffith, then head of Biograph Studios. Known as “the Girl with the Golden Curls,” she frequently played children and was Hollywood’s first superstar and the greatest screen icon of the silent movie era. Pickford parlayed looks, talent, and popularity into profits. This savvy businesswoman was one of the highest paid actors of her time. In 1919, she formed United Artists with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith as an independent company to produce and distribute their films. United Artists was a revolutionary concept, allowing the company total artistic control over their films from conception through post-production. Mary was awarded two Oscars during her life; the first was for her role in the film "Coquette" in 1929. Her last public appearance was at the 1976 Oscars, where she received a Lifetime Achievement Award.