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. Sun, 01 May 2016 23:30:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mary Pickford-Douglas Fairbanks Double Feature at the Egyptian in Hollywood http://marypickford.org/2016/04/28/mary-pickford-douglas-fairbanks-double-feature-egyptian-hollywood/ http://marypickford.org/2016/04/28/mary-pickford-douglas-fairbanks-double-feature-egyptian-hollywood/#respond Thu, 28 Apr 2016 22:08:10 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3724 Saturday, May 14th, 2016 The American Cinematheque, in association with the Mary Pickford Foundation, presents a double feature of Sparrows (1926), starring Mary Pickford, and The Black Pirate (1926), starring Douglas Fairbanks, on the 90th anniversary of their double premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Tickets and more details here. Pickford scholar and author […]

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Sparrows and The Black Pirate - May 14, 2016 (Poster)

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

The American Cinematheque, in association with the Mary Pickford Foundation, presents a double feature of Sparrows (1926), starring Mary Pickford, and The Black Pirate (1926), starring Douglas Fairbanks, on the 90th anniversary of their double premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Tickets and more details here.

Pickford scholar and author of Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and The Powerful Women of Early Hollywood, Cari Beauchamp will introduce SPARROWS and Fairbanks biographer (The First King of Hollywood) Tracey Goessel will introduce THE BLACK PIRATE. Both speakers will sign books in the lobby before the films and at intermission.

These two archival prints will play with live accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.

 

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Discovering ZaSu Pitts http://marypickford.org/2016/03/15/discovering-zasu-pitts/ http://marypickford.org/2016/03/15/discovering-zasu-pitts/#respond Tue, 15 Mar 2016 19:47:35 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3655 ZaSu Pitts (named after her two maiden aunts, Eliza and Susan) was born in Kansas in January of 1894 and when she was five, her father died. Her mother decided to move ZaSu, her two older brothers and herself to Santa Cruz, a small beach town on the Northern California coast and they ran a […]

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ZaSu Pitts (named after her two maiden aunts, Eliza and Susan) was born in Kansas in January of 1894 and when she was five, her father died. Her mother decided to move ZaSu, her two older brothers and herself to Santa Cruz, a small beach town on the Northern California coast and they ran a boarding house there. Business, however, was mostly seasonal so with money very tight, ZaSu decided, like so many other young women in the teens, to try her luck in the movies. She had a couple of small roles in a few short films behind her when she went to nearby Pleasanton where Mary Pickford was filming Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. ZaSu was cast as an extra and then followed the company back to Los Angeles.

ZaSu Pitts circa 1917Frances Marion was finishing the script for Mary’s next film, A Little Princess, when a young man from the casting office called to say he was bringing over “a maiden fairer than Aphrodite” for her consideration. He walked in a few minutes later escorting a thin, awkward young woman with enormous eyes and Frances’s first reaction was to think that she looked like “a trapped little animal.” But when the man said, “beauty like this should not go unnoticed,” Frances threw him out of her office and admonished the girl, now with tears in her eyes, to pay no attention him. [i]

“Tell me about yourself,” Frances said in an effort to make her comfortable and without any evidence of self-pity, the visitor talked about her early childhood in Kansas, her father’s death and the family’s move to Santa Cruz. She had found some work with Universal, but had little luck at other studios. Zasu told Frances that she had even met D.W. Griffith, but he said she looked too much like Lillian Gish to be in any of his pictures. It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to her.

As Frances watched and listened, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and it occurred to her that others might be touched as she was. There was a part in A Little Princess for a young maid called a slavey and Frances went to Mary with the idea of casting ZaSu. When Mary heard the whole story, including the remarks made by the man from the casting office, she approved immediately. [ii]

ZaSu and Mary Pickford in A Little Princess

Mickey Neilan agreed that ZaSu was “perfect for the part” and records the following story in his memoirs:

ZaSu must have become inspired by something because she did a couple of dramatic scenes that were wonderful. Mrs. Pickford, always alert to protect het little brood from any direction, whether it was Mary, Lottie or Jack, saw these scenes in the projection room which we were running her the daily rushes.

Afterward, as we were all walking back towards Mary’s dressing room, she took me aside and said, ‘That girl is good, Mickey – in fact she’s too good, now can’t we just cut the scene out of the picture?’

I thought it best to humor her and I said, ‘Charlotte, Mary and I try in every way to get the best talent to play in these pictures which goes to make good and sometimes great pictures. One bad actor or actress can sometimes throw this picture way off key, spoiling the entire illusion we are trying to create.’

‘But Mickey,’ she exploded, ‘she’s stealing the picture.’

‘Oh, nonsense,’ I replied. ‘She is supposed to dominate this scene to make the situation real and believable.’ Charlotte squared off and her little hat slid down almost over her eye. ‘Now you listen to me you stubborn Irish…’ A quiet voice but carrying authority intruded into our little argument.

‘Mother, Mickey is absolutely right and tomorrow I am going to ask him to make a close-up of Zasu in this scene. She is simply marvelous and people will see her and talk about her, but best of all they’ll talk about My Picture which is what sells tickets.’

Mother Pickford, with the quick understanding of the Celt, quietly put her arm around my shoulder and said, ‘Well what chance have I got between you two Irish larks… Hum! Sell tickets? Well, come on, let’s go home. We’ve got to take that added scene of that wonderful girl tomorrow.’ Mary gave me the knowing wink and led her mother gently away. [iii]

ZaSu and Mary Pickford in A Little Princess

ZaSu Pitts in the mid 1920sWhen A Little Princess was released in November of 1917, it was a huge success and Moving Picture World was not the only one to make special mention of the actress playing the young slavey; “Watch ZaSu Pitts, for she is a coming star.”[iv] Still, Zukor and Lasky did not put ZaSu under contract and while she appeared in another Pickford film, How Could You, Jean?, she went on to play a variety of roles at different studios before starring in Erich von Stroheim’s Greed in 1924. She was critically well-received in several serious roles including von Stroheim’s The Wedding March. Yet in between she became familiar to movie-goers as a comedienne, so when she appeared as Lew Ayres’ dying mother in All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930, the audience at the first preview began laughing as soon as she came on the screen. Her heart-wrenching speech could not be heard over the laughter and it was clear ZaSu was so identified with farcical roles, the scene would have to be reshot with another actress.[v]

Painting of ZaSu by Frances Marion from the early 1950sZaSu went back to playing comedic parts and focused on raising her daughter Ann and Don, Barbara LaMarr’s son she adopted after the star’s death. In the early 1930s, ZaSu divorced her husband, the promoter and sportsman Tom Gallery, and she was concerned about her finances. Frances Marion stayed friends with ZaSu over the years and, whenever possible, wrote parts in her films especially for her, such as the role of Gert in Blondie of the Follies starring Marion Davies.[vi]

ZaSu managed to work fairly consistently and grew into being a familiar character actress. She moved into performing on live television in the 1950s and was introduced to a new generation by playing Gale Storm’s sidekick from 1956 through 1960 in the situation comedy Oh Susannah! ZaSu’s final film appearance was in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in 1963, the same year she passed away in Hollywood at the age of 69.

 


 

[i].Marion, Hollywood, page 115

[ii]. Eliza + Susan = Zasu, Alfred A. Cohn, Photoplay, April, 1919; DeWitt Bodeen, ZaSu Pitts, Films in Review June-July 1980; Hollywood, page 116

[iii] Mickey Neilan, Hollywood Echos, unpublished memoir

[iv]. “watch for..” Marion Howard review, MPW Dec 22, 1917

[v]. DeWitt Bodeen, Zasu Pitts, Films in Review, June 1980; Beryl Mercer replaced her in the sound film, but ZaSu was left in the silent version.

[vi]. Los Angeles Times, Jan 15, 1932; Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1932. Don Gallery was never sure who his biological father was, but strongly suspected that he was MGM producer Paul Bern.

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The Restoration of Rosita http://marypickford.org/2016/03/04/the-restoration-of-rosita/ http://marypickford.org/2016/03/04/the-restoration-of-rosita/#respond Fri, 04 Mar 2016 21:23:49 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3640 MoMA film preservationists discuss the restoration on CBS This Morning The Museum of Modern Art, in cooperation with the Mary Pickford Foundation, is restoring the Mary Pickford silent Rosita (1923) from the last known surviving nitrate print found at Gosfilmofond in Russia. Pickford was instrumental in bringing the German director Ernst Lubitsch to America and […]

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Rosita Doug Lubitsch


MoMA film preservationists discuss the restoration on CBS This Morning

The Museum of Modern Art, in cooperation with the Mary Pickford Foundation, is restoring the Mary Pickford silent Rosita (1923) from the last known surviving nitrate print found at Gosfilmofond in Russia. Pickford was instrumental in bringing the German director Ernst Lubitsch to America and Rosita was the first film he made in the United States. The Pickford Foundation is providing access to our 35mm elements to assist in the restoration. Other groups partnering with MoMA include The Film Foundation and the Mayer Foundation.

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Spotlight on Guest Composer Missy Mazzoli http://marypickford.org/2016/02/17/spotlight-guest-composer-missy-mazzoli/ http://marypickford.org/2016/02/17/spotlight-guest-composer-missy-mazzoli/#respond Wed, 17 Feb 2016 00:51:02 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3624 Missy Mazzoli is a much in-demand, internationally renowned composer and performer, yet she chose to accept the Mary Pickford Foundation’s offer to spend a week working alongside the student composers and their professor, N. Lincoln Hanks, at Pepperdine University as they create a new score for Mary Pickford’s A Little Princess. “We conducted an extensive search for […]

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Missy MazzoliMissy Mazzoli is a much in-demand, internationally renowned composer and performer, yet she chose to accept the Mary Pickford Foundation’s offer to spend a week working alongside the student composers and their professor, N. Lincoln Hanks, at Pepperdine University as they create a new score for Mary Pickford’s A Little Princess.

“We conducted an extensive search for a guest composer,” said Pickford Foundation President Henry Stotsenberg. “Missy Mazzoli was our first choice because of her impressive body of work, her unique ability to weave rock with classical and her proven track record of appealing to a broader audience. We were honored when she accepted.”

Mazzoli said she wanted to join in the process because it was an opportunity to “do something new and teach in a different way.” The challenge of having student composers each write music for different sections of a film and then weave them together was a challenge that intrigued her. “Silent film is interesting and strange,” Mazzoli says with a smile, adding that “the idea of young composers writing a new score is a great way to bring new audiences to silent films. It’s a way to present a new slant to these great, beautiful films.”

Missy Mazzoli working with composer Max GinnellThe New York Times has called Mazzoli “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working” and her music has been performed throughout the world, but teaching and providing her unique insights remains important to her. She hopes that “acting as a sounding board and providing a fresh ear, without a history with the composers” will help elevate the score that eventually results.

“The nature of film composing is that you are collaborating with Mary Pickford,” Mazzoli says. “The real challenge is keeping the composer’s own style, but collaborating with each other and the film. My favorite film score illuminates the psychology of each character.”

On Saturday, April 9 of 2016, the project will culminated with the premiere of the student composers’ scores during the screening of A Little Princess at Pepperdine’s Amphitheater.

– Cari Beauchamp

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The World’s Mary http://marypickford.org/2016/02/15/the-worlds-mary/ http://marypickford.org/2016/02/15/the-worlds-mary/#respond Mon, 15 Feb 2016 23:21:34 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3561 In today’s world of global social media outlets, celebrities have a broader fan base than ever before. Some, such as Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, have numbers as high as seventy million fans on Facebook and Twitter. That is a sizable portion of the world’s population, but now imagine having that same percentage of people […]

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In today’s world of global social media outlets, celebrities have a broader fan base than ever before. Some, such as Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, have numbers as high as seventy million fans on Facebook and Twitter. That is a sizable portion of the world’s population, but now imagine having that same percentage of people knowing your name before the invention of the internet, television or even radio. This is what Mary Pickford achieved in the 1910s and ’20s—a name and likeness instantly recognizable to the farthest reaches of the planet.

Pickford’s international impact is illustrated in the Academy’s Scrapbook #21, an enormous fan-made book featuring magazine and newspaper articles showcasing the “Mary Pickfords” of different nations. These clippings make it clear that Mary set the global standard for motion picture fame in her era. Back then, if a foreign film star attracted enough adoring fans, she was dubbed the “Mary Pickford” of her country, meaning she had reached the absolute pinnacle within her industry.

The World's Mary - Academy Scrapbook #21 detailNo one who witnessed Mary Pickford’s unprecedented rise to global fame is alive today, so the modern world has a hard time grasping just how popular she was. In 1915, it was estimated that more people in Chicago and New York alone viewed Mary in a year than looked upon Napoleon in the course of his whole life. Journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns called Mary “the woman who was known to more people and loved by more people than any other woman that has been in all history.” By 1918, the actress the public once called “Our Mary” had grown into “The World’s Mary.”

The Scandinavian Mary Pickford - Academy Scrapbook #21 detailOnce the name Mary Pickford was universally synonymous with being the biggest and the best, other “Mary Pickfords” began appearing in various parts of the world. There was Mexico’s answer to Mary Pickford, Emma Padilla; the Mary Pickford of Russia was called Marie Judah; the Scandinavian Mary Pickford was Ann Forest of Denmark, the list goes on and on. These stars were not necessarily emulating Mary in any way, but they were promoted as examples of their national cinema’s brightest ingénues.

Being crowned the Mary Pickford of one’s country served another purpose—it attracted the attention of Hollywood. Popular actresses from the far corners of the globe sent their photos to film companies and to the American press, hoping to be discovered and whisked into Tinseltown where they might follow in the real Mary’s footsteps. In the late 1910s, French star Suzanne Grandais was considered “the only one able to interpret ingénue Mary Pickford roles” in her country. A publicity campaign was built around her as the Mary Pickford of France, and she was planning a trip to Hollywood to try her luck at American films when she was killed in a car accident in 1920. “Her countrymen idolized her much as we do our Mary,” read her obituary in a U.S. movie magazine.

"Mary Pickford of France" headline - Academy Scrapbook #21 detail

Mr. Klange  and Mrs. Lowenstrom - Academy Scrapbook #21 detailSome countries produced multiple Marys. Scrapbook clippings indicate that Italian screen stars Soava Gallone and Delza Mona Mazza were both referred to as the Mary Pickford of Italy. England boasted three Mary Pickfords: Alma Taylor, Queenie Thomas and Betty Balfour. Sweden had four Mary Pickfords and one of them, Sigrid Holmquist—also known as Sweden’s Sweetheart—made the leap to Hollywood and was moderately successful in silents for a few years. Swedish audiences seemed particularly fond of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, and their look-alikes (known as Mr. Klange and Mrs. Lowenstrom) gained fame from impersonating Doug and Mary in Stockholm stage shows.

"Mary Pickford of India" Zubeda Sahebzadi - Academy Scrapbook #21 detailThe Mary Pickford of China, Lee Shut Moy of Hong Kong, reportedly had the distinction of being the “world’s youngest leading woman,” starring in pictures at only sixteen. India’s sweetheart Zubeda Sahebzadi could have given her a run for her money—she found screen stardom at sixteen as well. But the Japanese Mary Pickford may be the most unique of them all; his name was Teijiro Tachibana, and he was renowned for his convincingly delicate and demure heroines. Because Japanese cinema was rooted in the traditions of the noh and kabuki theatrical dramas in which men played women’s roles, male actors typically portrayed females in early Japanese silent films. Tachibana played women exclusively until his death in 1918 at age twenty-five.

"Mary Pickford of Japan" - Academy Scrapbook #21 detail

Komaka  Sunada, the female "Mary Pickford of Japan" meets Douglas Fairbanks and Mary - Academy Scrapbook #21 detailLater, Japan also gained a female Mary Pickford. Komaka Sunada was a popular young leading lady of a Japanese film company who wished to meet the real Pickford in person, and whose wish was granted in 1927. A small image survives of Sunada presenting gifts to Mary and Doug when she visited Hollywood to study American filmmaking.

Earning the title “Mary Pickford of…” was not limited to geographical locations. It was sometimes bestowed upon a Pickfordesque performer in another field, such as stage ingénue Edna Northlane, known as the Mary Pickford of Vaudeville, or May Collins, the Mary Pickford of Industrial Pictures, who starred in Dr. Francis Holley’s educational films exhibited free from a Washington, D.C. mobile classroom truck in the early 1920s.

"Mary Pickford of Dogdom" - Academy Scrapbook #21 detailIt seems that practically everyone sought a slice of Mary Pickford’s fame in the silent film era. Remarkably, there was even a Mary Pickford of Dogdom. Champion Sherwood Nichu was a prize-winning Pekingese diva of aristocratic breeding who won acclaim at dog shows across the country before retiring to her comfortable home in San Mateo, California. According to Scrapbook #21, Nichu counted among her admirers “many princesses and dukes,” and was “simply wild about intoxicating liqueurs.”

This scrapbook also contains a 1920 article about Mary Pickford’s professional stand-in Louise DuPre, called an “understudy” in the days before the term “stand-in” was used. According to Motion Picture Classic magazine, DuPre—who closely resembled Mary and was exactly her size—had her “dream come true” by working as Mary’s double. “Over all the surface of the world, wherever motion pictures are shown,” journalist Charles G. Rich wrote, “and that means everywhere except in the deserts, the mountain fastnesses, the forest and the jungle, little girls and big girls too … have stood long and often before their mirrors and have tried to find in the reflection something that resembled the great Mary Pickford.”

Mary Pickford's Understudy - Academy Scrapbook #21 detailAs imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, Mary may have been flattered by her worldwide admirers, but she saw herself as a symbol. “I do not believe that any one person in the world is big enough for the acclaim of many thousand earnest people,” she wrote after touring China, Japan, Egypt and India with Doug in 1930. “The cheering crowds in the Far East were shouting not for me but for the American motion picture, the American people and the world of make-believe.”

Mary Pickford represented the American motion picture industry to millions for well over a decade. Pasted into the pages of scrapbook #21 is a magazine clipping from circa 1923 that questions the future of the movies without her. “Who will succeed Mary Pickford when she retires from the screen? The question is being asked frequently nowadays. We think we can answer it. Namely: no one.”

Mary Pickford Cartoon - Academy Scrapbook #21 detail

While celebrity worship has saturated our twenty-first-century culture, no one truly has succeeded in becoming known globally on the same level as Mary in her day. She seems to have been as revered in China or India or Russia as she was in North America. Even with the aid of Instagram, how many Hollywood stars can claim the same today?

Academy Scrapbook #21 can be seen in its entirety here.

Sources

Sources include AMPAS Mary Pickford Scrapbook #21, AMPAS Mary Pickford Scrapbook #10, Popular Science January 1920, The Aesthetics of Shadow: Lighting and Japanese Cinema by Daisuke Miyao, the Los Angeles Times January 24, 1915, and Forbes.com

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Mary Pickford Scrapbook 1922-1926 http://marypickford.org/2016/02/15/mary-pickford-scrapbook-1922-1926/ http://marypickford.org/2016/02/15/mary-pickford-scrapbook-1922-1926/#respond Mon, 15 Feb 2016 22:58:52 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3556 Scrapbook #21 from the Academy’s Mary Pickford collection features a variety of newspaper and fan magazine clippings from the years 1922-1926. Actresses dubbed “Mary Pickfords” of their countries are featured here including Suzanne Grandais, called the Mary Pickford of France, Japan’s Teijiro Tachibana and several others, reflecting Mary’s global impact and international popularity. The Pickford […]

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Scrapbook #21 from the Academy’s Mary Pickford collection features a variety of newspaper and fan magazine clippings from the years 1922-1926. Actresses dubbed “Mary Pickfords” of their countries are featured here including Suzanne Grandais, called the Mary Pickford of France, Japan’s Teijiro Tachibana and several others, reflecting Mary’s global impact and international popularity. The Pickford fan responsible for assembling this book pasted not only articles and magazine covers relating to Mary and some of her film contemporaries such as Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin, but also clippings of stage actresses Sarah Bernhardt, Lillian Russell and Eleanora Duse.

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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/#respond 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/#respond 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/#respond 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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Overview of the MPF Film Scoring Project 2015-2016 http://marypickford.org/2015/11/19/mary-pickford-foundation-film-scoring-project-2015-2016/ http://marypickford.org/2015/11/19/mary-pickford-foundation-film-scoring-project-2015-2016/#respond Thu, 19 Nov 2015 00:52:13 +0000 http://marypickford.org/?p=3627 The Mary Pickford Foundation is again partnering with the Music Composition Program at Pepperdine University for the Mary Pickford Foundation Film Scoring Project. For the second time, three Pepperdine composition students have been chosen as “Pickford Composers,” and a select group of Pepperdine instrumentalists and vocalists have auditioned and been named to form The Pickford […]

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Pepperdine_University_sealThe Mary Pickford Foundation is again partnering with the Music Composition Program at Pepperdine University for the Mary Pickford Foundation Film Scoring Project. For the second time, three Pepperdine composition students have been chosen as “Pickford Composers,” and a select group of Pepperdine instrumentalists and vocalists have auditioned and been named to form The Pickford Ensemble. This unique collaboration will produce original music for the silent film A Little Princess (1917) starring Mary Pickford, directed by Marshall Neilan and adapted by Frances Marion from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The three Pickford Composers of 2015-2016 are:

Max Ginnell (Sr. Music Major)
Jens Ibsen (Jr. Music Major)
Jared Taylor (Sr. Music Major)

Under the mentorship of Professor of Music N. Lincoln Hanks, along with the renowned guest professional composer Missy Mazzoli, the student composers will each be given a portion of the film to score during the fall semester at Pepperdine. In the spring semester, The Pickford Ensemble will form under the direction of Dr. Hanks and begin rehearsing the music with the film.

2015-2016 Pickford instrumentalists are:

Stephanie Yoon, flute
David Oh, cello
Max Ginnell, percussion and keyboard
Marco Leong, percussion
Sergio Gallardo, guitar
Brigg Urias, guitar
Dyer Bowers, violin
Meriel Peterson, violin
Pierrer Viallant, violincello
Kai de Becker, contrabass

For the first time, vocalists will be included in the project and they are:

Alexis Raymond, soprano
Rebecca Calix, mezzo-soprano
John Gibson, tenor
Andrew Leidenthal, baritone

On Saturday, April 9 of 2016, the project will culminate with the premiere of the student composers’ scores during the screening of A Little Princess at Pepperdine’s Amphitheater. The outdoor event, Up Against the Screen II: New Music with Film, will begin at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information will be posted as soon as it is available.

http://seaver.pepperdine.edu/academics/faculty/default.htm?faculty=lincoln_hanks

http://www.missymazzoli.com

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