America's Sweetheart

The Diary of Gladys Marie Smith

Mary Pickford
8 April
External Services:
  • _marypickford_@livejournal.com

*DISCLAIMER* I am not Mary Pickford, I am not related or affliated to the Pickford estate. This is an RPG for classic_rpg, I hope that you think I can do Mary justice.
Thank you,

a. Where and when was she born?

Mary was born on April 8, 1892 in Toronto, Canada. Her given name was Gladys Louise Smith.

b. Where and when did she die?

Mary died at Santa Monica Hospital in Santa Monica, California on May 29th, 1979. She had suffered a stroke on May 25th, and fell into a coma on May 27th. She was 87 years of age when she died.

c. What were her major accomplishments?

Mary Pickford was perhaps the first superstar the movies ever produced. Before Charlie Chaplin and before her husband Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford was known to fans the world over for her tough, sentimental, and warmly comic style, and for dramas about brave young women facing a difficult world. More than just a pretty face, Mary Pickford was also one of the founders of Hollywood: an important producer, writer and director, she controlled her career and her films as few actresses or actors have since. She became a celebrated public figure and later in life devoted herself to business pursuits including film and real estate, and established numerous charity efforts (most notably the Motion Picture Home and the Mary Pickford Foundation).

d. Who were her family members?

1. Mary’s immediate family included mother Charlotte, younger sister Lottie and younger brother Jack. The father of the household, John Charles Smith, died when Mary was about six of a blood clot suffered when a ship-board pulley struck him. She also had a grandmother, Catherine Hennessey, who disapproved of the theater. As an inside joke, Mary sometimes credited screenplays she herself had written to “Catherine Hennessey.”

2. Mary Pickford was married three times:

Her first husband, Owen Moore, was a handsome actor she met working for D.W. Griffith at Biograph. She married Moore on January 7, 1911, and divorced him (thanks to the easy divorce statutes in Nevada) in February of 1920.

Douglas Fairbanks was her second husband, and although their marriage was not her last or her longest, it gave Hollywood its first royal couple. On March 28, 1920 they married and moved into what would soon become known as Pickfair. Their celebrated marriage coincided with the peaks of their two careers, but it eventually ended in a divorce, which was finalized January 10, 1936.

Charles “Buddy” Rogers, her co-star in My Best Girl, was Mary’s third and final husband. They married on June 24, 1937 and remained married until her death in 1979. Buddy survived her, remarried himself to Beverley Ricono, and died April 21, 1999.

3. Mary and Buddy Rogers adopted two children, Roxanne and Ronnie. Ronnie is still alive, but neither of them had much to do with their mother’s work, film or charitable.

e. What was Pickfair?

If Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were the first king and queen of Hollywood, Pickfair was their castle. A hunting lodge on the (then) outskirts of Beverly Hills on Summit Drive, it was a grand house that played host to visiting royalty from all fields of human endeavor. Lavishly appointed by its famous occupants, it sported stables and a large pool, a western-style bar straight out of a cowboy movie and china that had once been a gift from Napolean to Josephine. The address was (and is) 1143 Summit Drive, although the house is no longer connected to Pickford or Fairbanks. It was purchased by Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss after Mary’s death, and then sold in 1988 to Meshulam Riklis and Pia Zadora. The couple tore down and renovated large sections of the original building, leaving a mansion that few today recognize as Pickfair. Recently (in January of 2003) the house was put on the market at over $39 million dollars.

Pickfair Lodge was a home built on a corner of the Pickfair grounds by Buddy Rogers after the death of Mary Pickford. This small but beautiful mansion housed many of Mary’s keepsakes until 2003, when it too went on the market. Some of its features recalled the original Pickfair, including a western bar that Buddy had fashioned from the old Pickfair bomb shelter, which was on the Pickfair Lodge section of the property.

f. Where did the name “Mary Pickford” come from?

Young Gladys Smith seized a chance to work with David Belasco in 1907, but her theatrical mentor (easily one of the most powerful men in American theater at the time) advised her to change her name. In her autobiography, she tells of how Belasco first chose “Pickford” from among the family names that she recited, and then advised her to use Mary (from “Marie,” one of the names she was baptized with) for her first name. She sent home to Toronto a telegraph that she claims read, “GLADYS SMITH NOW MARY PICKFORD ENGAGED BY DAVID BELASCO TO APPEAR ON BROADWAY THIS FALL.”

g. Why was she known as “America’s Sweetheart”?

B.P. Schulberg, a staffer for Famous Players who would one-day rule movie empires of his own, christened Mary with this nickname. He claims to have overheard a middle-aged couple talking about her in front of a theater one day. The husband is supposed to have said, “There she is, my little sweetheart,” to which the wife replied, “She’s not just your little sweetheart, she’s everybody’s sweetheart.” Schulberg coined the nickname “America’s Sweetheart,” and began to use it in film advertising for Mary’s pictures. Interestingly, it is a moniker that like the phrase “It Girl,” has been claimed by more modern stars like Julia Roberts, and Canadians are quick to point out that before she was America’s Sweetheart, she was Canada’s Sweetheart.

h. Why was she known as “The Girl With The Curls”?

Perhaps the most famous aspect of Mary Pickford’s image was her thick, blonde ringlet curls. A common hairstyle of the era, on this end of history they almost seem to belong only to Mary Pickford. On occasion they were elements of the stories Mary starred in, for example Little Lord Fauntleroy, and other times they were dispensed with. Only some of them were real: Mary Pickford carefully maintained extensions to augment her natural curls. When she cut them off publicly, the event was as much a cultural watershed as Elvis Presley’s Army-induction haircut—more so. The curls were emblematic of her virginal purity: audiences were said to gasp when they were cut onscreen as part of a movie. Mary compared herself to the biblical Samson, so certain was she that the loss of her famous hair would somehow sap her strength with the public. In 1928, three months after the death of her mother, she finally took that chance and had a hairdresser cut them off. By cutting off her curls, Mary made a public statement about her adulthood. Mary reported that Douglas Fairbanks wept when he saw her without her famous curls. Today, several of her curls still exist in museum collections.

i. Why is she sometimes called the world’s first movie superstar?

When Mary Pickford was making movies, they were beginning to become an international phenomenon. She was the first actor to benefit from that change, and for a while she was the most recognized person in the world. Although political figures like Kings and Queens and Presidents could be seen everywhere on currency and stamps, only Little Mary Pickford could be seen in a media that approached real life. The movies gave a seeming intimacy and connection that even the greatest sculpture or portrait could not match, and silent movies could easily cross national boundaries, losing little when the language changed. Within a few years others, notably her husband Douglas Fairbanks and their friend Charlie Chaplin, matched her popularity but the first to attract mobs internationally was Mary Pickford. The whole phenomenon of fame and the movies was skewered hilariously by the 1927 Russian film Potseluj Meri Pikford, also known as A Kiss From Mary Pickford, which used footage of Mary and Doug in Russia. The story centers on fanatical Russian fans, including one who refuses to wash his cheek after his idol Mary plants her famous lips on his cheek. The resulting mass hysteria is now all too familiar to our celebrity-crazed culture.



Eyman, Scott
Mary Pickford: America’s Sweetheart
Donald I. Fine Books
New York

Pickford, Mary
Why Not Try God?
H.C. Kinsey and Co. Inc
New York, NY

Basinger, Jeanine
Silent Stars
Alfred A. Knopf
New York, NY