A Family Wedding at Pickfair

By 1925, Doug and Mary’s home was known far and wide as “Pickfair” and they had hosted royalty and a variety of distinguished guests, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Parties large and small were held with regularity, but occasionally the house was also the site for family affairs such as the wedding of Mary’s cousin, Verna Watson, 20, to Selmar Chalif, 21. Verna lived in New York, but the offer of a sunny outdoor May wedding at one of the most famous homes in the country was well worth the trip.

Pickfair - May 10, 1925. Wedding of Selmar Chalip and Verna Watson. Reverend Dodd, Doug Fairbanks, and Mary PickfordWe know how close Mary was to her mother Charlotte and her younger siblings, but she took care of her extended family as well. Verna was the daughter of Charlotte’s older sister Elizabeth, or Lizzie. Charlotte had been nine years old when her father died and to survive, she and her newly widowed mother moved in with Lizzie who had recently married William Watson. Taking care of family was in their DNA so of course Mary would offer her home. And she arranged for Reverend Dodd, the same minister who had married Mary and Doug, to officiate.

Yet even a family wedding was not a simple affair. Two airplanes circled the house and flew in low to drop white and red carnations on the roof on the gathering below. Mary was the matron of honor and her niece Gwen, Lottie’s daughter, was the flower girl. The bride’s parents were there as were Charlotte and Jack Pickford and his wife Marilyn Miller, who had been married at Pickfair three years before

Pickfair - May 10, 1925. Wedding of Selmar Chalip and Verna Watson. Charlotte Pickford, Mary Pickford, Doug Fairbanks, Reverend Dodd, Jack Pickford, and Robert FairbanksDoug’s family was represented by his brother Robert and his wife and friends from the film business such as future director Raoul Walsh, Charlie Chaplin, Al Parker and Mary’s cinematographer, Charles Rosher were included as well.

Home movies were made of the wedding and when the camera’s rolled, Mary and Doug could not resist hamming it up. In the Mary Pickford Foundation’s archives, some of the film still exists so enjoy this clip from a family wedding on May 10, 1925.


A Note On My Articles

The purpose of these articles is to examine and explore aspects of Mary Pickford’s life, as well as those of her friends and colleagues, within the context of their time and culture. They are not designed to be a complete biography of Pickford by any means, rather a chance to revisit aspects of her life and times. I am not looking to put her on a pedestal nor make her larger than life, but I find the risks she took and her dedication to her craft inspiring and I hope others do too. She was a woman in a man’s world who learned to effectively use her power at a time when there were no paths to follow. I also hope the articles motivate a conversation of sorts. If you think there is a factual error, please let me know. (For instance, one book mentions Lottie being in California in 1910, but Mary, in Sunshine and Shadow, says only she and Jack were there.) Please let me hear any ideas, questions or suggestions you might have at CBeauchamp@MaryPickford.org.

Below is a bibliography listing some of the books I have used for these articles and over the years in my research. Some are better than others, needless to say, with Kevin Brownlow at the head of the class. I also find Booton Herndon’s biography of Mary and Doug illuminating because he wrote it at a time when he was able to interview several of Pickford’s closest friends, including Frances Marion. (Booton generously shared his hours of interviews with Frances with me for my book, Without Lying Down.) Not included, but just as important, are trades such as Film Daily, Variety and newspapers of the day.

 

Bibliography

Balio, Tino. United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.

Beauchamp, Cari. Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood. New York: Scribners, 1997.

Birchard, Robert. Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004.

Bowser, Eileen. The Transformation of Cinema 1907-1915. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990.

Brownlow, Kevin. The Parade’s Gone By. New York: Ballantine Books, 1969.

– – – Hollywood: The Pioneers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.


Brownlow, Kevin and Robert Cushman. Mary Pickford Rediscovered. New York: Harry Abrams, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, 1999.

DeMille, Cecil B., edited by Donald Hayne. The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1959.

deMille, William. Hollywood Saga. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1939.

Herndon, Booton. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks: The Most Popular Couple the World has Ever Known. New York: W.W. Norton, 1977.

Koszarski, Richard. An Evening’s Entertainment 1915-1928. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990.

Marion, Frances. Off with Their Heads, New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Niver, Kemp. Mary Pickford, Comedienne. Los Angeles: Locare Research Group, 1969.

Pickford, Mary. Sunshine and Shadow. New York: Doubleday, 1955.

St. Johns, Adela Rogers. Love, Laughter and Tears: My Hollywood Story. New York: Doubleday, 1978.

Schulberg, Budd. Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince. New York: Stein and Day, 1981.

Sennett, Mack. The King of Comedy. Garden City, New Jersey: Doubleday, 1954.

Wakeman, John, editor. World Film Directors, Volume 1 1890-1945. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.

Whitfield, Eileen Pickford: The Woman who Made Hollywood. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1997.

Woon, Basil. Incredible Land. New York: Liveright Publishing, 1933.

Zukor, Adolph with Dale Kramer. The Public is Never Wrong. New York: GP Putnam’s Sons, 1953.

L’eredita DeMille (The DeMille Legacy). Published by Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Italy 1991.