Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart

Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart by Peggy Dymond Leavey was a slim biography that covered Pickford’s childhood in Toronto and her early roles as a child actor in the theatre. At first she resisted the new invention of film, believing that acting anywhere else but on a stage in front of a live audience was beneath her.

Pickford was a fiercely independent actor, demanding to be paid the same as male actors–and successfully getting it. She was a producer and executive who fought for the control of her movies and how they were distributed. Her business persona ran counter to the image she sometimes played of young girls onscreen:

Samuel Goldwyn said of Pickford that “it took longer to negotiate one of her famous contracts that it did for her to make a picture.”

Leavey wrote that during the filming of “Little Annie Rooney” in 1925, Pickford was the target of a kidnapping plot and was saved from abduction by cooperating with the police after they were tipped off by none other than one of the plotters themselves.

Pickford was married three times, lastly to Buddy Rogers, who despite their marriage of 42 years seemed to accept his wife’s torch which was always burning for her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks.

After Pickford retired from moviemaking she lived in seclusion, preferring to keep her silent screen image alive, unsullied by the passage of decades. She was so concerned with the preservation of her image that she prohibited the broadcast of her films until 1970. That degree of control could never be exercised today. Imagine freezing your black-and-white self on film, leaving the public without an updated image of yourself for forty years.

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