Mary Pickford Foundation http://marypickford.org Marypickford.org is the official website of the foundation established by Mary Pickford. Here you can find the Mary Pickford Foundation's online research center featuring original videos and writings, an extensive photo gallery, a searchable database of films, rare movie clips, current events, classic film screenings, historical material and much more, as well as details of the Foundation’s new partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Sat, 29 Aug 2015 00:53:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mary Pickford Films at Cinecon http://marypickford.org/2015/08/29/mary-pickford-films-at-cinecon/ http://marypickford.org/2015/08/29/mary-pickford-films-at-cinecon/#comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 00:53:31 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3310 M’liss, a rarely screened comedy-drama starring Mary Pickford from 1918, will be shown Saturday, September 5th, at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood as part of the 51st annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival. In this new HD transfer, Pickford plays an incarnation of her ‘waif’ archetype, M’liss Smith, the wildcat child of prospector “Bummer” Smith (Theodore […]

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M’liss, a rarely screened comedy-drama starring Mary Pickford from 1918, will be shown Saturday, September 5th, at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood as part of the 51st annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival. In this new HD transfer, Pickford plays an incarnation of her ‘waif’ archetype, M’liss Smith, the wildcat child of prospector “Bummer” Smith (Theodore Roberts) in the days of the 1840s California Gold Rush. Stalwart schoolmaster Charles Gray (Thomas Meighan) arrives in Red Gulch and M’liss becomes a pupil, her love for Gray blossoming as she gains an education. When her father is killed, M’liss must take matters into her own hands to prove Gray’s innocence and bring the events to a happy conclusion. Frances Marion adapted the screenplay from a story by Bret Harte, and Marshall Neilan directed this beautiful silent film shot near Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County, California.

The Biograph short The Son’s Return (1909) will be screened before the feature presentation. The original camera negative of this early Pickford film was discovered by archivist Alan Boyd and restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by the Mary Pickford Foundation and the Museum of Modern Art. The Son’s Return features Mary Pickford as Mary, the sweetheart of Will (Charles West), a country innkeeper’s son who heads to the big city and becomes a successful banker. After five years, he returns to his poverty-stricken parents, who do not recognize him and plot to rob their own son. Mary steps in to help the drama end happily. The Son’s Return was directed by D.W. Griffith and was shot on location in Leonia and Coytesville, New Jersey. For more details, visit Cinecon.org.

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A Girl Of Yesterday http://marypickford.org/2015/08/17/girl-of-yesterday/ http://marypickford.org/2015/08/17/girl-of-yesterday/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 20:54:11 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3283 Considering it is estimated that at least seventy-five percent of all silent films are “lost” – meaning they are gone because they were stored improperly, dumped in the ocean or melted down to be sold for the silver in the nitrate – we are fortunate that so many of Mary Pickford’s films survive. However, there […]

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Cans of nitrate film

Considering it is estimated that at least seventy-five percent of all silent films are “lost” – meaning they are gone because they were stored improperly, dumped in the ocean or melted down to be sold for the silver in the nitrate – we are fortunate that so many of Mary Pickford’s films survive. However, there is one of her “lost” films – A Girl of Yesterday from 1915 – that is particularly missed because there were so many things about it that made it special.

In A Girl of Yesterday, Mary plays Jane Stuart, a sweet old-fashioned girl who suddenly inherits wealth. While she tries to retain her traditional ways and wardrobe, her brother (played by Mary’s brother Jack) likes the attention that is now being paid to them by people who previously shunned them. Frances Marion, who was writing scenarios but went along with Mary’s urging her to act, plays “the wicked sophisticate” Rosanna Danforth. Marion’s character has her eye on Mary’s beau, played by Mickey Neilan, a friend of Jack Pickford’s who had been working in films for several years, but wanted to direct. (Many filmographies credit Mary with writing the story, but in his memoirs, Mickey Neilan claims that Frances wrote it.) [i]

Frances Marion and Mickey Neilan dance with an eye on Mary Pickford The experienced Allan Dwan, who had worked with Flying A in Santa Barbara and Universal before joining Famous Players-Lasky in 1913, was assigned to direct after James Kirkwood, who had directed over half a dozen of Mary’s previous films, returned to the East Coast. For a while during the filming, Dwan and Neilan, who had worked with each other before, both lived at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, a men’s only establishment that featured a steam room, a swimming pool and of course, a well-stocked bar. Jack Pickford was a frequent guest. [ii]

Marshall Neilan, Jack Pickford and Mary Pickford All those close inner connections simmering in the cast and crew could have wreaked havoc, but everyone involved seemed to enjoy each other and Dwan was secure enough in his own abilities to include others in the creative process. The sense of community the company shared extended to Dwan inviting everyone to his wedding to the actress Pauline Bush in San Juan Capistrano during a weekend break from filming. Inspired by the church mission and in a burst of regret for the secret and secular surroundings of her own wedding, Mary and Owen asked the priest to renew their vows in a Catholic ceremony. The service struck Frances as half-hearted at best. She knew how little time they spent together and had seen too much of Owen’s behavior and Mary’s unhappiness to put any faith in a ritual. Yet she also understood how much Mary wanted to make her marriage work, even if the odds seemed against it. [iii] (The Bush Dwan marriage only lasted until 1919.)

The plot of A Girl of Yesterday included a scene where Mary is kidnapped and taken away by airplane that was to be filmed in Griffith Park. Three years earlier, Mabel Normand had starred in A Dash Through the Clouds where she had actually flown a plane, but just the thought of her daughter being in a plane was enough to horrify Charlotte Pickford. The fact that Mary was to fly was promoted in a spate of news articles for several months in advance and proclamations such as Variety’s –“Pickford Taking Chances” – didn’t help to soothe Charlotte’s concerns.

Douglas Gerrard, Glenn Martin and Mary PickfordOf course, on the day of the flight, reporters flocked to Griffith Park to bear witness. In his book, Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios, Frederic Lombardi tells the story of Famous Players manager Al Kaufman dressing in drag, complete with blonde ringlet wig, to try to fool them while appeasing Charlotte, but the reporters were kept so far away they could not get any pictures. When they voiced their suspicions, Mary stepped forward to be bound and gagged as the script called for and she was placed in the small, four-seater plane. Reports vary on Charlotte’s demands on the limit of how far it would go above the ground – 10 feet, 100 feet or 500 feet. Dwan, who knew enough to know that higher was actually safer, also knew not to go up against Charlotte and assured her the plane would not go over 100 feet. He later told Peter Bogdanovich that “I had kept my word to Mary’s mother. She was never over 100 feet.” Needless to say, everyone survived, the photographers got their pictures and the next day, the Los Angeles Times headlined, “While Her Frantic Mother Waited on the Ground, the Moving Picture Star Soared.” [iv]

Mary’s pilot was a local aviator, Glenn Martin, who would go on to found a pioneering airplane company and create the Martin bomber. Flying a plane was an everyday occurrence to Martin, but he balked at being in the film when he was told his role called for him to kiss a girl because “My mother wouldn’t like it.” The story goes that Adolph Zukor himself had to come to Griffith Park for Martin to eventually agree to give Frances a slight peck on the cheek. (Martin never did marry and lived with his mother until her death.) [v]

Mary and Jack Pickford on the Spreckles yachtWith the angst and drama of the Griffith Park scenes behind them, the company was free to enjoy themselves at other locations such as a day on a golf course. They were also treated to several days of shooting on the multimillion dollar yacht of John D. Spreckels, the wealthy “Sugar King.” [vi] They cruised around Catalina Island, which would serve as a key location spot in hundreds of films, often passing as the South Seas in films such as Mutiny on the Bounty and Gloria Swanson’s Sadie Thompson.

In part it is the thought of seeing all these locations circa 1915 that makes the loss of A Girl of Yesterday such a heartbreak for film fans. Of course it would also be great fun to see Jack Pickford, Mary Pickford, Mickey Neilen and Frances Marion all together on the screen, knowing as we do that Mary, Mickey and Frances would work together often in the years ahead and be lifelong friends.

“Lost” films are still being discovered – often in Australia or South America because they were among the last stops in distribution. Why bother paying to return them at a time when films were viewed as something not worth saving? Occasionally reels are found in European and other international archives, stashed on shelves, often renamed or misnamed and therefore a challenge to identify. So hope springs eternal that A Girl of Yesterday may yet emerge.

 

NOTES

[i] Mickey Neilan on film writing credit, Hollywood Echo’s dated Sept 4, 1958, p 210

[ii] Allan Dwan was initially intrigued with motion pictures in 1909 when he invented and installed studio lighting for the Essanay Company in Chicago. Mickey Neilen also writes extensively about his time at the Athletic Club in Hollywood Echos. Dwan staying there, Lombardi, p 39.

[iii] Dwan/Bush wedding, FM to Booton Herndon

[iv] “While her…” Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1915

[v] “my mother” Frances Marion, Hollywood page 62-63; Martin, his accomplishments and his mother, NYT, 12/5/1955

[vi] Spreckels yacht, Motion Picture World, October 9, 1915

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Mary’s Biggest Fan http://marypickford.org/2015/07/31/marys-biggest-fan/ http://marypickford.org/2015/07/31/marys-biggest-fan/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 22:49:37 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3271 Considering the fact that Mary Pickford received an estimated 500 letters a day during the teens and twenties, she clearly had many fans worldwide. One of her biggest and most loyal devotees, however, must have been Janet Esme Vernon of Buckinghamshire, England. Esme, as she signed her letters, created at least two scrapbooks filled with […]

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Considering the fact that Mary Pickford received an estimated 500 letters a day during the teens and twenties, she clearly had many fans worldwide. One of her biggest and most loyal devotees, however, must have been Janet Esme Vernon of Buckinghamshire, England. Esme, as she signed her letters, created at least two scrapbooks filled with hand-colored and decorated clippings of Mary and Douglas Fairbanks (another can be seen here).

MPF Scrapbook #4 detail

The Mary Pickford Foundation’s Scrapbook #4 was made by Miss Vernon in 1921-22, when she was sixteen years old, and is brimming with hand-tinted images and Esme’s uniquely stylized cursive handwriting. She had been admiring Mary and Doug for years from across the Atlantic, and finally got her chance to see them up close when they came to England for a second visit (after their honeymoon trip in 1920) in the fall of 1921. She not only saw them, but experienced a fan’s dream come true by meeting them both. The scrapbook she made documents Mary and Doug’s trip from the perspective of the U.K. press with extensive news clippings, and also records their visit from her perspective—through the honest eyes of a young fan, unfiltered by the media.

MPF Scrapbook #4 detail

MPF Scrapbook #4 detailWhen the famous couple arrived in London, Esme sent Mary pink roses (one petal is preserved in the scrapbook) and a letter explaining that she was unable to greet her at Victoria Station because her parents would not allow her in London after dark by herself. “I heard a rumour that you thought of producing pictures in England six months of the year,” she wrote. “I do hope it will come true. I am sure England has great possibilities as a future film centre.” Esme continued to encourage Mary to film in England, suggesting the “newly completed film studio at Beaconsfield” as a possible inducement.

MPF Scrapbook #4 detailThe highlight of the scrapbook is the young fan’s handwritten account of meeting Mary and Doug, which she describes as “one of the greatest wishes in my life.” Employing every tactic to see her idols—from following Mary’s mother down the street to posing as a journalist with a scheduled appointment—Esme finally persuaded a sympathetic telephone operator to call and announce her to the Fairbankses’ suite at the Ritz. In the early days of celebrity worship, Esme Vernon seems to have set the standard for ingenuous persistence and devotion. Forty years before Beatlemania, this kind of fanaticism was new to the world, and especially to England. As Cari Beauchamp notes in her book Without Lying Down, when Mary and Doug arrived abroad, “there had never before been such a frenzied response from a nation renowned for its reserve, and The Times of London called it ‘appalling.’”

Appalling or not, Esme was determined to meet Pickford and Fairbanks and she succeeded, despite the crowds of “thousands and thousands” that Mary recalled swarming the hotel. She waited for hours in an anteroom with Miss Shepherd (Pickford’s personal secretary) while the phone rang incessantly and other visitors came and went, until finally Douglas Fairbanks appeared. “He was slighter built than I thought he would be,” she wrote, “but otherwise he might have just walked out of one of his films.” She also noted his “soft tenor speaking voice” with a “decided American accent,” and remarked that he “kept on saying ‘sure.’” Esme jumped up, introduced herself and inquired if she might meet his wife. After hesitating, Doug murmured “I think you might,” and went back into the suite where, according to Miss Shepherd, Mary was sleeping.

MPF Scrapbook #4 detail

Eventually, Mary Pickford emerged from the suite and was introduced to the awestruck girl, saying “‘I’m very pleased to meet you,’ or something to that effect.” In the silent days when audiences could not hear movie stars talk, their speaking voice was often the element that fans were most curious about. Esme was no exception, as she penned an entire paragraph about Mary’s voice, calling it “well-modulated,” “neither high nor low” and “decidedly girlish.” “It did not sound American at all and had little if any accent,” she wrote, “but there was something which I had never heard in a voice before, and that which I cannot possibly describe, only saying that it was Mary’s voice, a thing out of the ordinary.”

MPF Scrapbook #4 detailIn her handwritten memoir, Esme admits to being “dazzled” by Mary’s appearance. “She absolutely radiated beauty as she stood there in a simple black frock looking very slender and fragile, although not by any means thin,” she wrote. “She looked at me with her great eyes which I thought were very dark blue or hazel, but what struck me most were her great, curling, thick black eyelashes.” Esme also notes Mary’s “sweet” but distracted manner, her fair hair and her perfect ivory complexion, though she noticed signs of exhaustion. “My candid impression of Mary was that she was physically and mentally tired out … I think the strenuous society life is a little too much for her.”

MPF Scrapbook #4 detail

As world-famous as Mary and Doug were in 1921, in those days one resourceful teenager could not only correspond with the world’s biggest stars, but actually meet them. Today, when A-list celebrities are kept from the public by an impenetrable wall of bodyguards or police, Esme’s feat seems all the more incredible. Her lovingly handmade scrapbooks record the birth of fandom, a twentieth-century phenomenon that has now grown into a thriving institution.

MPF Scrapbook #4 detailScrapbook #4 also contains Esme’s program from The Three Musketeers at the Royal Opera House at London’s Covent Garden, and a thank-you note typed by Miss Shepherd on Ritz Hotel stationery. A few years later in 1925, Esme Vernon received a thank-you note from Mary herself, who remembered her as “always thoughtful.” Though Mary never did shoot a film in England, she produced an English drama (starring as a character named Vernon, coincidentally) not long after her second U.K. visit. When she made Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall, Mary had the Derbyshire manor house carefully recreated on the Pickford-Fairbanks studio lot in Hollywood, California.

Scrapbook #4 can be seen in its entirety here.

Sources

Ancestry.com

Beauchamp, Cari. Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997.

Mary Pickford Foundation Scrapbook #4

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

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Hand-colored Mary Pickford Scrapbook from 1921 http://marypickford.org/2015/07/21/hand-colored-mary-pickford-scrapbook-from-1921/ http://marypickford.org/2015/07/21/hand-colored-mary-pickford-scrapbook-from-1921/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 23:38:30 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3268 This scrapbook from the Mary Pickford Foundation collection was made by sixteen-year-old Janet Esme Vernon of Buckinghamshire, England in 1921. Miss Vernon also created another scrapbook housed at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library. Filled with hand-tinted clippings from English newspapers and magazines, it serves as an invaluable record of the U.K. press’s impression of Mary Pickford […]

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This scrapbook from the Mary Pickford Foundation collection was made by sixteen-year-old Janet Esme Vernon of Buckinghamshire, England in 1921. Miss Vernon also created another scrapbook housed at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library.

Filled with hand-tinted clippings from English newspapers and magazines, it serves as an invaluable record of the U.K. press’s impression of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks on their second trip to England as well as an authentic, unpolished perspective on the famous couple thanks to Miss Vernon’s handwritten memoirs enclosed in the book’s artistic pages. To colorize the black-and-white clippings, she must have used a combination of medium-hard charcoals and lightweight paints applied with a fine brush, so as not to damage the thin magazine and newsprint paper.

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The Beginning of a Life-Long Friendship http://marypickford.org/2015/06/24/the-beginning-of-a-life-long-friendship/ http://marypickford.org/2015/06/24/the-beginning-of-a-life-long-friendship/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:09:09 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3254 In the spring of 1914, Mary Pickford was in Los Angeles, living off and on with her husband Owen Moore, and immersed in her filmmaking. Making movies was her sanity, her purpose and her profession, as well as the means of supporting her family and one of the results of her dedication was that she […]

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In the spring of 1914, Mary Pickford was in Los Angeles, living off and on with her husband Owen Moore, and immersed in her filmmaking. Making movies was her sanity, her purpose and her profession, as well as the means of supporting her family and one of the results of her dedication was that she had little time for friends and few opportunities to make any. There was Dorothy and Lillian Gish, but they were working with D.W. Griffith in New York, so when Owen mentioned that he had met a woman who was an excellent portrait painter and someone he thought she might like, Mary was willing to make the time. Still, it had to be at the studio so she could cut the interview short if she wanted to.

Frances Marion modeling in San Francisco Owen had met Marion Owens at a party at the Morosco Theater, where she painted the actors’ portraits for posters. Marion had been raised in San Francisco in a moneyed and culturally active family; Jack London and Enrico Caruso were dinner guests. However, the earthquake of 1906 had devastated her father’s business holdings and Marion left school and went to work as a model, a reporter and a commercial artist before coming to Los Angeles in 1912. Unlike many others associated with the theater, Marion was fascinated with the movies and she knew that Owen, like his brothers Matt and Tom, was an actor and that he was married to Mary Pickford, so it was natural for Marion to mention it when they met. She told him she thought the quality of Mary’s films was “above the rest,” but he responded by saying, “Mary has an expressive little talent… Hardly what one could call cerebral.” Marion was offended that any man would be so dismissive of his wife and started to turn away, but he stopped her by complimenting her on her paintings and asking if she would like him to introduce her to Mary. [i]

It was only a few weeks later that Marion stood at the studio entrance to be greeted by a young man who walked her through the dirt lot to knock at the door of a wooden building. A voice called out for them to enter and there in a darkened room stood Mary Pickford, editing film with the cutter. She greeted Marion with a smile and a firm handshake, and took her into a side room to talk.

Frances Marion and Mary Pickford

Marion’s first reaction to Mary was to sense “a strange watchfulness behind her steadfast gaze.” She was surprised at the vulnerability from someone she had put on a pedestal, and she instantly developed a fiercely protective attitude toward Mary that was to be one of the hallmarks of their friendship.

Their mutual sense of ambition united the two women immediately and, although Mary was initially more reticent than Marion, they quickly established that they had both been married a few months shy of their eighteenth birthdays and shared a sense of failure in their respective marriages as well.

Frances Marion as a Lois Weber actress After over an hour of comfortable conversation, Mary assured her there would be plenty of time for portrait painting when she returned from New York in the fall. As Marion left the studio, the young man at the gate commented on his amazement that “Miss Pickford spent so much time” with her and she felt exhilarated. More determined than ever to work in movies, Marion asked her friend, the writer Adela Rogers St. Johns, to introduce her to Lois Weber, the most successful of the dozen women directors working in Los Angeles at the time. Six months later, when Mary and Marion met again, Marion had separated from her husband and had been working as an actress, writer and general assistant to Lois Weber under a new name the director had given her, Frances Marion. [ii]

Frances and Mary picked up where they had left off. When Weber decided to leave the Bosworth Studio where they had been working and go to Universal, Frances looked around at other options. She wanted to write, but everyone seemed to keep pushing her in front of the camera. Mary offered her work as an actress, with the promise that she could work on scenarios as well, and if Frances paused for a moment, “When Mary said, ‘We’ll have fun together,’ all my resistance fled and I signed on the dotted line.” [iii]

Mary and Charlotte Pickford in Hollywood, 1915Frances moved into a bungalow in the same courtyard where Mary and her mother Charlotte were living near the Famous Players studio in Hollywood. The rooms were tiny, the overhead lights too bright and the plaster on the walls reminded Frances of “an advanced stage of smallpox.” She also soon learned that Charlotte looked at living on the West Coast as a temporary situation. Perusing the still-developing neighborhoods of Los Angeles, she invested Mary’s income in land, but not houses. The poverty of their earlier years impacted every decision Charlotte made, and she made all the decisions. [iv]

Charlotte and Frances liked each other immediately. Where others saw Charlotte as an oppressive influence, Frances saw genuine love and caring and, in turn, Mary’s mother’s welcomed her daughter having a real friend and confidante. When Frances’s mother visited from San Francisco, she spent time with Charlotte and the mothers became friends as well. [v]

Frances’s new living conditions were in stark contrast to the home she had shared with her husband Robert, but there was a vine-covered porch in front, and she considered the lack of luxury a small price to pay for her freedom. At twenty-six, she had been married to a poor artist and then a scion of a rich San Francisco family, and now she was truly on her own for the first time in her adult life. If it felt a bit precarious financially, living near and working with Mary filled her with a wealth of possibilities.

Mary Pickford in The Dawn of a Tomorrow, 1915

Frances and Mary were at the studio by seven in the morning, six days a week, and Frances devoted herself to writing, watching and learning. Over the first five months of 1915, they turned out three films under the direction of James Kirkwood, Mistress Nell, The Dawn of Tomorrow and Fanchon the Cricket, all based on plays or novels. And in the process, the seeds of a lifelong friendship were sown.

 

[i]. “Mary has…” et. al. Marion, Hollywood, pages 40-41. Note: more on Owen Moore in Photoplay, Interview with Owen Moore, by Estelle Kegler, December, 1912 and The Hero Brothers, Photoplay, August 1915.

[ii]. “a strange watchfullness” Hollywood, page 43.

[iii] “When Mary” Notes on Hollywood p 41

[iv] “an advanced” Hollywood, p 110

[v] FM to Booton Herndon

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Cinderella in Athens, Ohio http://marypickford.org/2015/05/29/cinderella-in-athens-ohio/ http://marypickford.org/2015/05/29/cinderella-in-athens-ohio/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 16:17:34 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3233 On Wednesday, June 3rd, the historic Athena Cinema in Athens, Ohio will celebrate its centennial by screening the first film it showed 100 years ago: Cinderella (1914), starring Mary Pickford and Owen Moore. Disney’s latest live-action remake can’t compare with the silent charm of Mary as “the ragged but beautiful cinder-girl,” a character The Moving […]

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On Wednesday, June 3rd, the historic Athena Cinema in Athens, Ohio will celebrate its centennial by screening the first film it showed 100 years ago: Cinderella (1914), starring Mary Pickford and Owen Moore. Disney’s latest live-action remake can’t compare with the silent charm of Mary as “the ragged but beautiful cinder-girl,” a character The Moving Picture World described as “appealingly intensified by the beauty and grace of the wonderful little star.” The film will feature live accompaniment by Derek DiCenzo and will be preceded by a champagne-and-cake reception and a concert. Visit the Athena website for more details.

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Hand-colored Fan Scrapbook From 1925-26 http://marypickford.org/2015/05/28/hand-colored-fan-scrapbook-from-1925-26/ http://marypickford.org/2015/05/28/hand-colored-fan-scrapbook-from-1925-26/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 21:49:53 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3235 Academy Scrapbook #26 reminds us just how beloved Mary Pickford was to her fans around the world. Pickford admirer Janet Esme Vernon of Buckinghamshire, England lovingly hand-tinted the pictures and drew decorative borders around the clippings she glued to the scrapbook pages, creating a unique work of art. Vernon had met Mary and Doug on […]

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Academy Scrapbook #26 reminds us just how beloved Mary Pickford was to her fans around the world. Pickford admirer Janet Esme Vernon of Buckinghamshire, England lovingly hand-tinted the pictures and drew decorative borders around the clippings she glued to the scrapbook pages, creating a unique work of art. Vernon had met Mary and Doug on their second trip to England in 1921, and continued to send her favorite stars letters, poems and artwork over the years. Also featured in this scrapbook are Doug Fairbanks, his young son Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Mary’s brother Jack Pickford and his second wife Marilyn Miller, along with clippings of Mary during the making of Little Annie Rooney and Sparrows.

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USC Graduation 2015 http://marypickford.org/2015/05/16/usc-graduation-2015/ http://marypickford.org/2015/05/16/usc-graduation-2015/#comments Sat, 16 May 2015 20:49:38 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3216 On May 15th, 2015, producer-director (and USC class of 1986 alumnus) Jay Roach delivered the commencement address at the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduation at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Roach presented screenwriter and producer Melissa Rosenberg with the Mary Pickford Foundation Alumni Award.  

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On May 15th, 2015, producer-director (and USC class of 1986 alumnus) Jay Roach delivered the commencement address at the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduation at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Roach presented screenwriter and producer Melissa Rosenberg with the Mary Pickford Foundation Alumni Award.
 

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Reflections on D.W. Griffith  http://marypickford.org/2015/04/16/reflections-on-d-w-griffith/ http://marypickford.org/2015/04/16/reflections-on-d-w-griffith/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:17:38 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3159 Today, when D.W. Griffith’s name is mentioned, many people think only of the technically brilliant and shockingly racist The Birth of a Nation. In fact, in 1999 the Director’s Guild of America changed the name of their annual D.W. Griffith Award, initiated in the 1950s, to simply Lifetime Achievement Award because, as their president Jack […]

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Today, when D.W. Griffith’s name is mentioned, many people think only of the technically brilliant and shockingly racist The Birth of a Nation. In fact, in 1999 the Director’s Guild of America changed the name of their annual D.W. Griffith Award, initiated in the 1950s, to simply Lifetime Achievement Award because, as their president Jack Shea explained, “As we approach a new millennium, the time is right to create a new ultimate honor for film directors that better reflects the sensibilities of our society at this time in our national history.”

Griffith, however, directed over 450 films, including Intolerance, Broken Blossoms and many others that pushed creative barriers. And of course he was Mary Pickford’s first film director. His place in film history can be illuminated by testimonies from his contemporaries, people who knew Griffith and worked with him before he made The Birth of a Nation, and what follows are a few samples of the ways in which he inspired other filmmakers, their casts and crews.

Allan DwanAllan Dwan, the great director of over 100 silent and sound films known for such epics as Robin Hood (1922), spoke about how he learned to make movies in the first place:

“I had to learn from the screen. I had no other model…The only man I ever watched was Griffith and I just did what he did. It was a wonderful, successful thing to do. I’d see his pictures and go back and make them at my company… Biograph was by many miles the best and the most popular because of Griffith. His pictures had good photography, good lighting, good everything and by watching what he was doing, you learned. We were completely alone you see – there was nobody to talk to, no one to compare with.”

When asked to be specific about what he learned from Griffith, Dwan added:

“One of the most important things was economy of gesture, which to me is a very important portion of the act of acting. To do a great deal with very little in terms of motion… Sometimes the most silent scene with the least gesture provokes the great emotion in the audience. Then I also like the use of the close-up which Griffith introduced, the back lighting he used extensively rather than letting the sun blaze at the actors directly, his side lighting and his compositions in general. He was superb. The principal thing was the lighting.”[i]

Cecil B. DeMille called Griffith “a great genius” and said:

“He was the teacher of us all. Not a picture has been made since his time that does not bear some trace of his influence. He did not invent the close-up or some of the other devices with which he has sometimes been credited, but he discovered and he taught everyone else how to use them for more beautiful effect and better story telling on the screen.”[ii]

Mickey Neilan, who Mary Pickford often referred to as her favorite director, bemoaned the “old problem” of coming up with new story ideas because Griffith seemed to have already made them all. Neilan and Griffith met while they were both actors in a touring company in 1906 and they stayed friends until Griffith’s death in 1948. Neilan described Griffith as:

Mary Pickford and Marshall Neilan

“A well built six footer graceful in action, he was the type of man you would look at once and say, ‘actor’ – long hair and long nose. Piercing eyes and the most wonderful voice I ever heard in a human being. It had a pipe organ quality and he knew how to pull and shut the stops to control it.”[iii]

Neilan cites many reasons he respected Griffith as a filmmaker and what traits made him so accomplished. For example, Neilan said:

“D.W. Griffith, in one of our many, many chats, said that one or two of the greatest assets valuable to a motion picture director was to be born with a retentive memory. A keen sense of observation to be able to study characters, watch their mannerisms and habits and be able to file the same away for future use in directing your cast. He was so absolutely right.”

Neilan also credited Griffith with “inventing” previewing films:

“Only Griffith gave previews allowing in the public. He was the originator of the preview, only he didn’t hand out the cards asking for audience criticisms. His previews were simply to get audience reaction while watching his pictures and furthermore, he held all his previews well out of Hollywood where the public were not so picture wise.”[iv]

D.W. Griffith, Billy Bitzer (behind camera) and Karl BrownLillian Gish was, along with her sister Dorothy, introduced to Griffith by their childhood friend Mary Pickford. Lillian went on to star in many of his most successful films including The Birth of A Nation, Intolerance and Broken Blossoms and while she stayed with him longer than most actors, she observed his attitude towards other stars when they moved on.

D.W. Griffith and Lillian Gish

“He had an ambivalent attitude toward his protégées. He helped them achieve success, and when they wanted to leave, he let them go without a restraining word. He was happy for this. His satisfaction at Mary [Pickford’s] success – and later that of Richard Barthelmess, Mae Marsh and others – was genuine and spontaneous. He never clutched at anyone.”[v]


Raoul Walsh
would become an acclaimed director, but he was an actor working with Pathé in 1914 “feeling more foolish each night” because of “the god-awful stuff Pathé was making.” When he was offered a job at Biograph, he was thrilled because he thought “both the directing and the acting seemed superior to anything I had so far experienced.” Once there, Walsh learned that Griffith was leaving Biograph and was going to head to the coast to start a new company and Walsh signed up to make the trip.[vi] 

Walsh summarized his several years of experience working with Griffith in California as follows:

“D.W. Griffith was a genius when it came to making a motion picture. He was a quiet man, almost shy until he picked up a megaphone. He called every male member of the company ‘Mister’ and discouraged familiarity. Some of his biographers have accused him of arrogance and unfairness for being ‘Mr. Unapproachable.’ I always found him ready to listen to opinions, and he was the first to offer help when any of his people got into trouble. Whenever I had the chance, I watched while he directed, and tried to remember everything he said and did. Not many people are lucky enough to have a genius for a teacher and the lessons were free. All I needed to do was keep my eyes and ears open.

Later, when I became a director myself, I profited greatly from the things this master taught me. Cabanne and the other Fine Art directors were all competent, but none of them had the touch and the superb sense of the dramatic which were evident in everything Griffith made. When he produced and personally directed The Birth of a Nation, the world acclaimed his artistry and paid belated tribute. This spectacle changed the history of movies and for the first time put them on a par with all other forms of art. And its nationwide box office success made movies big business.”[vii]

Anita LoosAnita Loos first came to Hollywood in 1915 to work for Griffith and went on to become the acclaimed author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but she was a high-school student in San Diego where her father ran a theater when, in 1912, she first came in contact with Griffith’s work. At that time, Anita and her sister Gladys often acted in their father’s theater where short films were shown between performances.

“I adored those old silent films, knew the particular style of each company – Selig, Vitagraph, Kalem and, best of all, Biograph, which produced more literate stories played by a more sensitive group of actors. Nobody was aware of the young director, D.W. Griffith, who was solely responsible for the fact that Biograph movies were so much more imaginative and, at the same time, real than all the others.

Pop, in booking his films, took all the Biograph pictures and I would hurry with my costume changes to get down to the dark stage, where I could see them from the reverse side of the screen, with the light of the projector casting a bright splotch in the middle. On a certain night, while entranced by one those movies, I realized that it had required a script, so I decided to try my hand at writing one. The next morning I worked out a plot and that afternoon at rehearsal I climbed up into the projection and searched the film cans for an address where I might send my story. The address I found was American Biograph Company, 11 East 14th Street, New York City… Not more than two weeks went by before I received a long envelope with American Biograph Company impressively engraved on the corner. With hands shaking like an earthquake, I tore the envelope apart and reported this letter:

We have accepted your scenario entitled ‘The New York Hat.’ We enclose an assignment which kindly sign and have witnessed by two persons, and then return. On receipt of signed assignment we shall send you our check for $25.00 in payment.”

…And a career was born.[viii]Hobart Bosworth

Hobart Bosworth was an acclaimed Broadway star in the early 1900’s when he was struck with tuberculosis and lost his voice and a third of his weight in the course of three months. He came to California, known for its dry warm weather, to regain his health, thinking his acting days were over, but was approached by the Selig Company in 1909 to act in In the Sultan’s Power with an offer of “more money for two days’ work than I had ever received in my life of devotion to the drama.” It opened a new career for Bosworth as an actor, director and, in 1913, as the founder of his own studio. He sold his company to Paramount in 1916 when his health started to fail again, but he returned to acting and eventually appeared in over 250 films.

“I remember in those days every scene I made I wondered how HE, D.W., would make it, and tried to make it as I thought he would like it done. I think he influenced all of us directors in just that way, but I don’t think that even he, with his great grasp of his medium, knew much more about what he had than we did.”[ix]

Mack Sennett worked as an actor in the Biograph company and went on to create his own studio, the Keystone Cops and to direct hundreds of films with stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and Mabel Normand. Sennett didn’t always get along with Griffith for a variety of reasons, yet he learned a lot from him and in his 1954 autobiography, Sennett credited Griffith, who he called “the absolute pioneer of the screen,” with creating the path everyone else followed.

“He, and his cameraman, Billy Bitzer, invented the close-up, ‘Rembrandt’ lighting, and what we now call the ‘idiom’ of the screen. He did that in 1910 and what he did was as fundamental to movies as the wheel is to mechanics. We have widened the screen now, but we are still telling stories the way D.W. Griffith taught us to tell them.

D.W. Griffith, when you come right down to it, invented motion pictures. As Lionel Barrymore says, there ought to be a statue to him at Hollywood and Vine, and it ought to be fifty feet high, solid gold, and floodlighted every night.”[x] 

We know there is no statue, but the large elephants atop the mall at Hollywood and Highland serve as an homage, to those few who recognize it, to the great set Griffith constructed nearby for Intolerance. But what becomes clear from these commentaries is that his work rippled out to affect so many others that we will never know the extent of his influence.

Griffith's Intolerance set, 1916

Griffith stopped being Mary Pickford’s director in 1913, and soon after that he left (or was pushed out) of Biograph. He joined Mutual where, as he later put it, “It was ‘mutual’ all right. I did the work and they got the profits.” Many people would make a small fortune off of The Birth of a Nation, including Louis B. Mayer who had the New England distribution rights to the film and pocketed so much more than he reported making at the box office that he accumulated enough money to move into film production. However, Griffith was not one of those who profited, paying little attention to finances and focusing instead on his next film.

Pickford and Griffith remained friends and he was one of the four original founders of United Artists in 1919. He made his last film in 1931, died in Los Angeles in July of 1948 and was buried in his native Kentucky. In 1950, Mary made a trip to his gravesite and, joined by Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess, placed a regal stone marker provided by the Screen Actors Guild on Griffith’s grave.

[i] Bogdanovich, Peter. Allan Dwan: The Last Pioneer, p. 25

[ii] DeMille, Cecil B. Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille, p. 125

[iii] Neilen, Marshall. Unpublished memoirs, dated 5/1/1955

[iv] Neilen, Marshall. Unpublished memoirs, dated 9/4/58

[v] Gish, Lillian. The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me, p. 82

[vi] Walsh, Raoul. Each Man in His Time, p. 69

[vii] Walsh, Raoul. Each Man in His Time, pp. 80-81

[viii] Loos, Anita. A Girl Like I, pp. 55-56

[ix] Bosworth, Hobart, Lecture on Film at USC 2/26/1930

[x] Sennett, Mack. King of Comedy, pp. 54-55

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Mary Puts Marblehead on the Map http://marypickford.org/2015/04/09/mary-puts-marblehead-on-the-map/ http://marypickford.org/2015/04/09/mary-puts-marblehead-on-the-map/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 16:23:27 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3137 The Mary Pickford Foundation recently accessed some pages from a 99-year-old scrapbook apparently kept by a resident of Marblehead, Massachusetts. The black-and-white snapshots pasted to the crumbling pages are small and fading to silver, but they capture an important event in local history: the moment when the movies came to town. In October of 1916, […]

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The Mary Pickford Foundation recently accessed some pages from a 99-year-old scrapbook apparently kept by a resident of Marblehead, Massachusetts. The black-and-white snapshots pasted to the crumbling pages are small and fading to silver, but they capture an important event in local history: the moment when the movies came to town.

Marblehead Mary Pickford Scrapbook Image 1

In October of 1916, the sleepy fishing village of Marblehead was shocked out of its slumber when the world’s biggest movie star, Mary Pickford, invaded its shores to shoot her new picture The Pride of the Clan. Pickford and her crew, including her then brother-in-law Matt Moore and director Maurice Tourneur, sought a stretch of New England coast that could double as Scotland and they found it in Marblehead, 15 miles north of Boston. The thatched-roof stone cottages and picturesque beaches made an ideal backdrop to the drama of seafaring Scots. Mary played Marget MacTavish, a strong-willed young woman who becomes chieftain of her clan when her father is drowned at sea.

Marblehead Mary Pickford Scrapbook Image 2

Marblehead Mary Pickford Scrapbook Image 3The first few weeks of filming went smoothly enough. The townsfolk, who had never seen a movie star or a movie camera, perched themselves in the hills each day to watch the spectacle; some were even recruited to be extras in the film. Resident Lizzette Woodfin became one of the first movie stand-ins in recorded history as she was reportedly hired to step in for Pickford while the scenes were lit.

But soon, news of America’s Sweetheart on location began to spread to Boston and beyond, sending flocks of fans journeying to see their screen idol in person. According to The Moving Picture World, “the entire surrounding country” made a mass pilgrimage to Marblehead, congesting the roads leading to the village. They also noted that a special police force had to be hired to keep the crowds at bay because spectators had “spoiled many feet of good raw stock by getting within the camera lines.”

Marblehead Mary Pickford Scrapbook Image 4When it came time to shoot the big shipwreck scene on November 12th, onlookers were the least of the production’s problems. As the New York Times reported that day, “Mary Pickford’s new picture was staged in Marblehead Harbor this afternoon in a manner so realistic that the ‘Queen of the Movies’ might have lost her life.”

Mary and crew set out to sea in the Eddie Miner, an old schooner that sprung a leak about a quarter-mile off shore. As Mary herself recalled in her syndicated column Daily Talks by Mary Pickford, “We were very busy taking a scene when the hulk suddenly listed and then settled in the water, a wave breaking over the stern. A few seconds later, before we could even call for help, the boat had listed again, another wave had drenched us and we were left standing in the water up to our ankles.”

When another wave came and swept Pickford underwater, she “clung on for dear life” while Tourneur and the crew shouted for help. The swarms of onlookers, believing the drama to be staged for the film, did nothing until a local fisherman realized Mary’s cries were genuine and sent a boat into the icy water to rescue her. The “thousands of spectators” then went wild, reported The Moving Picture World, and policemen “found it impossible to handle the eager crowd.”

Marblehead Mary Pickford Scrapbook Image 5While waiting for the rescue boat, cameraman Lucien Adriot held the precious camera over his head as the waves reached his ears. Just before the boat arrived, he and the camera went under. Fortunately the only casualty was the film in the camera. The reel was ruined and the party would have to return once more to Marblehead in December to retake the shipwreck scene – this time with a motor boat and life preservers waiting just out of camera range.

Marblehead Mary Pickford Scrapbook Image 6Though the 1916 scrapbook is incomplete, the few remaining snapshots of anonymous Marblehead residents paint a quaint picture of early 20th century life, when women strolled along the beach in hats and long dresses and motion pictures were exciting and new.

Marblehead Mary Pickford Scrapbook Image 7The photos of Mary Pickford, taken by local photographer F.B. Litchman, show an empowered 24-year-old who had recently formed her own production company and just been voted the #1 most popular movie actor by the readers of Motion Picture magazine. The famous shot of Mary smiling with the movie camera is accompanied by a lesser known shot of her gazing fondly at the machine, as if knowing she has mastered control of it and of the industry it generated.

Sources include pages from an untitled 1916 scrapbook (courtesy of Bison Archives), The Moving Picture World from December 2, 1916 and December 16, 1916 (accessed via the Media History Digital Library), the New York Times from November 13, 1916, The Day from December 4, 1916 (accessed via Google) and “The Movies and Marblehead” on wickedlocal.com.

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