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. Thu, 28 Jan 2016 18:12:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Laurence Irving http://marypickford.org/2016/01/14/the-pickford-fairbanks-studio-1928-by-laurence-irving/ http://marypickford.org/2016/01/14/the-pickford-fairbanks-studio-1928-by-laurence-irving/#comments Thu, 14 Jan 2016 07:50:53 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3538 The Pickford-Fairbanks Studio 1928 by Laurence Irving Laurence Irving was a renowned book illustrator, painter and theater set designer living in London when his friend, the playwright and screenwriter Eddie Knoblock, recommended him to Douglas Fairbanks. Mary Pickford and Fairbanks were visiting London in May of 1928, but Doug was also preparing for his next […]

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The Pickford-Fairbanks Studio 1928 by Laurence Irving

Laurence IrvingLaurence Irving was a renowned book illustrator, painter and theater set designer living in London when his friend, the playwright and screenwriter Eddie Knoblock, recommended him to Douglas Fairbanks. Mary Pickford and Fairbanks were visiting London in May of 1928, but Doug was also preparing for his next film, The Iron Mask. He was in the market for a great set decorator so he cabled Irving, asking him to come to the Hyde Park Hotel and bring “examples of your work.” At this point in their careers, Fairbanks and Pickford were huge international stars, mobbed everywhere they went, and unable to travel without security. Yet when a nervous Irving showed up at Fairbanks’s hotel room, carrying as large a portfolio as he dared, he found the star in the bathtub. Fairbanks acted as if nothing could be more normal and within a few hours had charmed Irving into agreeing to come to America to design the sets for The Iron Mask. Leaving his wife and children in London, Irving met the famous couple in Naples a few days later and set sail with them.

Their train trip across country was a revelation to Irving who had never been to America before, and his firsthand account of his arrival in Los Angeles and first visit to the Pickford-Fairbanks studio gives us an insight into movie making in 1928 as well as the personalities of the studio’s owners.

 

Young Douglas Fairbanks Jr.At Pasadena Station a horde of liege men and women and loyal subjects welcomed their king and queen safely returned from a crusade to win the hearts of Europeans… Doug handed me over to his eighteen-year-old son, “Junior.” As the crown prince of Hollywood, he had a sophisticated poise beyond his years. He had, of course, hereditary right of entry into the film studio and had already made the most of it. …

At the wheel of a powerful two-seater coupé, Junior, with an engaging detachment, concluded an informative and wryly humorous prologue of the motion-picture pageant in which I was to play a minor role. Of that drive I remember only the succession of gigantic roadside advertisements in dazzling white frames that made me feel as though I were being whisked through an exhibition of pictures painted by a prolific artist with impressive vulgarity. Never having visited Spain or Italy, the Mediterranean houses and pseudo-estancias struck me as original and picturesque and complementary to the brown, arid hills on which they were artfully perched by real estate dealers. All too soon we turned off Hollywood Boulevard, down a street overshadowed by a wall of buildings, and drove through steel gates, guarded apparently by a Texan philosopher and his Alsatian dog, into an enclave where soon I would have to justify the fabulous expense of my transportation thither.

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks playing around at their studioIn its centre stood three studios and the carpenter’s shop, each like an outsize airplane hangar. On two sides these structures were enclosed by buildings that met at right angles made by Douglas’s and Mary’s headquar­ters, their purposes and uses contrary for all their contiguity. Douglas’s dressing room, in effect a hall with an ever open door, led to a steam bath and a cold plunge. To Douglas, privacy was a deprivation. At all hours members of his court and visitors were welcome—at their own risk. For beside his dressing room table was an armchair into which the unwary, conscious of the privilege of his warm invitation to take a seat, sank in prospect of an intimate chat with their distinguished host, only to leap from it with a yelp of dismay as their posteriors tingled from an electric shock galvanized by a switch concealed under his dressing table. This hos­pitable snare, eagerly anticipated and relished by an audience delighting in practical jokes of any kind, betrayed, perhaps, his Teutonic ancestry, akin to the ponderous pranks played by Edward VII on his long-suffering courtiers.

Douglas Fairbanks on the set of The Iron Mask

In contrast Mary’s bungalow had the cloistered calm of a nunnery where its Mother Superior welcomed only faithful friends and business associates in awe of her perspicacity. There Mary, when not herself filming, spun daily from the threads of her talent as an artist and femme d’affaires the web of financial security for herself and her dependent relatives. Having been the family breadwinner since she was five years old, industry and thrift had become as obsessive to her as her faith in Christian Science.

Pickford Fairbanks studio from a distanceBeyond the studios was a vast open space, “the lot,” which from a dis­tance appeared to be the relics of a world fair exhibiting every style and period of architecture known to man—a jumble of facades of stone, marble tiles, and brick skillfully rendered in plaster on frameworks of timber and chicken wire. There were the recognizable backgrounds of long-remem­bered films preserved intact by the perpetual sunshine until they outlived useful adaptation and were demolished to make room for new produc­tions. Though more substantial than stage settings, each was truncated to the limits of the camera’s lines of sight, their jagged silhouettes reminding me of a shell-torn Belgian town.

Excerpted from Laurence Irving’s Designing for the Movies: The Memoirs of Laurence Irving, published by Scarecrow Press in 2005.

– Cari Beauchamp

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A Collection of Costumes and Curls http://marypickford.org/2016/01/04/collection-costumes-curls/ http://marypickford.org/2016/01/04/collection-costumes-curls/#comments Mon, 04 Jan 2016 19:12:04 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3521 Recently, a Mitchell Leisen-designed costume Mary Pickford wore in the film Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924) that had been loaned to the Pickford Theater in Cathedral City was returned to the Mary Pickford Foundation. In order to assure the proper care and preservation of this exquisite dressing gown, we made an easy decision: donate […]

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Recently, a Mitchell Leisen-designed costume Mary Pickford wore in the film Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924) that had been loaned to the Pickford Theater in Cathedral City was returned to the Mary Pickford Foundation. In order to assure the proper care and preservation of this exquisite dressing gown, we made an easy decision: donate the costume to the place Mary herself had given several of her costumes back in 1932 and the custodian of the largest collection of Pickford costumes, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

Mitchell Leisen-designed costume Mary Pickford wore in the film Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924)
Photo: Courtesy Library of Congress/Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies

The dressing gown now joins more than a dozen other Pickford costumes, including several others from Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall such as the green velvet gown with silk panels laced with silver and pearls and an ornate bonnet headpiece, the blue and magenta velvet gown with cotton lace collar and silk chiffon and taffeta linings, and a black evening dress with gold metallic brocading, velvet trim, pearl beading and gold metallic lace that Pickford wore in her most elaborately costumed drama. The NHM’s collection also includes a gown and a robe worn by Clare Eames who played Queen Elizabeth I in the film.

Beth Werling, Collections Manager of the History Department at the NHM, says that “the depth of Pickford’s involvement in costume design highlights her brilliant producing skills as well as her realization that clothes were key to the art of storytelling.” Indeed, the costumes at the Museum testify to Pickford’s attention to detail, her hiring of the most talented crew available as well as her ever-present thrift. For instance, the black evening dress she wore in Dorothy Vernon can be seen again in Taming of the Shrew—draped over a trunk.

Other highlights of the Museum’s holdings include the pink tulle evening gown Pickford wears in the country club dance scenes in Coquette. Mary convinced Howard Greer, the former head of costumes at Paramount who had left the studio to open his own store in Beverly Hills, to make her costumes for the film, and the satin and tulle dress personifies the sweet yet adult sophistication Pickford wanted to convey. The dress and the ribboned belt that cinches that dress remain in remarkable condition.

Mary Pickford dress from Coquette
Photo Left: Library of Congress/Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies, Right: Mary Pickford Foundation

Mary’s dresses from Little Annie Rooney might not appear as spectacular as the laced and bejeweled costumes from Dorothy Vernon, but they are just as important in conveying the essence of her character. The Museum has two of Mary’s costumes from Little Annie Rooney, the plaid linen dress with a beige a wool tweed jacket and her tam o’shanter, as well as the printed cotton dress she wore in the birthday party scene.

Mary Pickford dress from Little Annie Rooney,
Photo Left: Library of Congress/Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies, Right: Mary Pickford Foundation

The Museum’s collection of Pickford costumes doubled in size in 2005 when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art returned almost all of the film costumes that they had taken when they left the Exposition Park museum back in 1965 to establish LACMA on Wilshire Boulevard. Those Pickford costumes had been donated to them by Mary’s estate in 1981.

Everyone interested in preserving film costumes has learned hard lessons over the past few years as we watched the painful dismantling of Debbie Reynolds’ costume collection that she spent decades and a small fortune trying to save. There have been high points as well, such as Deborah Nadoolman Landis, director of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA, curating the spectacular costume exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and then bringing it to Los Angeles, under the auspices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2014. But the exhibit also served to remind us how these costumes have been spread throughout the globe and that the cost and care necessary to pull off such a program is almost prohibitive.

That makes it all the more important that as many costumes as possible be housed in one place, and that makes the Natural History Museum’s collection such a treasure. Knowing that Pickford’s costumes are there to be exhibited and loaned to inspire new generations of film lovers is heartwarming. And the power of the Pickford legacy is confirmed by Beth Werling when she points out while the Museum has 35 million artifacts, among the top ten most requested items are Mary Pickford’s famous curls—five long golden ringlets from when she bobbed her hair in 1928—that she gave the museum in 1932.

Mary Pickford’s famous curls—five long golden ringlets from her 1928 bob
Photo Left: Courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Right: Mary Pickford Foundation

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Screening: Tess of the Storm Country (1914) http://marypickford.org/2015/11/25/screening-tess-of-the-storm-country-1914/ http://marypickford.org/2015/11/25/screening-tess-of-the-storm-country-1914/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 17:38:29 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3504 December 12th, 2015 at 2 pm Presented by The Silent Treatment at the Cinefamily Silent Movie Theater, 611 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles The earliest surviving Mary Pickford feature, Tess of the Storm Country (1914) catapulted Pickford from popular performer to motion picture megastar, inspired exhibitors to crown Pickford “America’s Sweetheart,” and spurred studio head […]

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December 12th, 2015 at 2 pm

Presented by The Silent Treatment at the Cinefamily

Silent Movie Theater, 611 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles

The earliest surviving Mary Pickford feature, Tess of the Storm Country (1914) catapulted Pickford from popular performer to motion picture megastar, inspired exhibitors to crown Pickford “America’s Sweetheart,” and spurred studio head Adolph Zukor to raise her salary, making her the world’s highest paid actress.

In the film, Pickford stars as Tessibel Skinner, a poor but feisty squatter on the blustery shores of New York’s Cayuga Lake who rises to heroism when her father (David Hartford) is falsely imprisoned for murder. When Tess agrees to care for the illegitimate baby of a wealthy friend (Olive Golden), she risks losing the love of Frederick (Harold Lockwood) and is condemned by his father, the unforgiving minister Elias Graves (W.R. Walters).

This groundbreaking melodrama was recently preserved by the Paramount Archives in cooperation with the Mary Pickford Foundation. Directed by Edwin S. Porter, written by B.P. Schulberg and based on the 1909 novel by Grace Miller White. 80 min.

Live accompaniment from Cliff Retallick

$12/free for members of Cinefamily

See more here.

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Conrad Nagel http://marypickford.org/2015/11/10/conrad-nagel/ http://marypickford.org/2015/11/10/conrad-nagel/#comments Tue, 10 Nov 2015 21:22:47 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3358 Conrad Nagel was a respected actor whose film career spanned from 1915 when he began acting in front of the camera for William Brady in Fort Lee, New Jersey through the mid-1960s. He was also one of those half-dozen men at Louis B. Mayer’s dinner table the night that the idea of the Academy of […]

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Conrad NagelConrad Nagel was a respected actor whose film career spanned from 1915 when he began acting in front of the camera for William Brady in Fort Lee, New Jersey through the mid-1960s. He was also one of those half-dozen men at Louis B. Mayer’s dinner table the night that the idea of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was born; Nagel went on to serve as its President from 1932 to 1933.

In 1929, Nagel was one of fifteen representatives from the film industry to speak to students at University of Southern California during a course organized in part by the Academy’s then President, Douglas Fairbanks. Nagel’s contribution was entitled “The Actor’s Art” and in his speech he called special attention to a dilemma only an actor might notice, but one he credits Mary Pickford with overcoming.

 

Mary Pickford with Johnny Mack Brown in Coquette
Mary Pickford with Johnny Mack Brown in Coquette

In Coquette, which was Mary Pickford’s first talking picture, we have two excellent examples of the emotional appeal and the technical appeal. In this picture Miss Pickford has the same situation to handle twice, the death of a loved one. In the middle of the picture her lover is killed and at the end of the story her father kills himself. It is perhaps the most difficult thing an actor can encounter: the problem of handling the same situation twice in one performance. In the death of the lover Miss Pickford plays the scene emotionally; she not only tears out her own heart but the audience suffers with her. It is the high point of the picture. At the end of the story where the father kills himself in the courtroom it is impossible for Miss Pickford to repeat the dramatic and emotional reaction shown in the former episode, so she relies almost entirely on mechanics. After the death of the father in the courtroom, there is a slight pause and then Miss Pickford comes out; a dutiful friend is waiting and asks whether there is anything he can do for her. She looks up, smiles wanly and says, ‘No thank you, there is nothing to be done. I have to get home to help brother with his algebra.’ And she walks out of the courthouse and down the street toward her house. The effect, of course, is tremendous. It is a great question as to which of the two scenes is the greatest and most effective.

Today, it may seem that Coquette does not stand the test of time as well as many of Mary’s other films, yet Nagel’s observations help explain the nuances of her performance and why she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in the film.

– Cari Beauchamp

Note on the lectures:

While neither Mary Pickford nor Fairbanks spoke, the participants included others who rarely spoke in public including Irving Thalberg, the screenwriter Clara Beranger and the producer Paul Bern. These lectures were reprinted by editor John C. Tibbetts in 1977 under the title of the course, Introduction to the Photoplay.

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My Best Girl on U.S. Tour http://marypickford.org/2015/09/17/my-best-girl-on-u-s-tour/ http://marypickford.org/2015/09/17/my-best-girl-on-u-s-tour/#comments Thu, 17 Sep 2015 16:48:36 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3339 Mary Pickford’s romantic comedy My Best Girl (1927) is one of the highlights of UCLA’s ten-city Festival of Preservation Tour. Pickford’s final silent film, co-starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers (who would become Pickford’s third husband) and directed by Sam Taylor, has been restored by UCLA with a print comprising the best available 35mm and 16mm elements […]

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Mary Pickford’s romantic comedy My Best Girl (1927) is one of the highlights of UCLA’s ten-city Festival of Preservation Tour. Pickford’s final silent film, co-starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers (who would become Pickford’s third husband) and directed by Sam Taylor, has been restored by UCLA with a print comprising the best available 35mm and 16mm elements and revised intertitles. The tour will screen My Best Girl and other recently preserved classic films in select North American venues from September 10th, 2015 to December 31, 2016. Visit the UCLA Film & Television Archive website for tour dates and details.

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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 filmConsidering 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 Neilan 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 Neilan 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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