Mary Pickford Chronology

Mary as Eva in the stage play Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1901April 8, 1892: Gladys Louise Smith is born to John Charles and Charlotte Smith (née Hennessey) at 211 University Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

June 9, 1893: Charlotte Smith (Lottie Pickford) is born in Toronto.

Late 1895: John Charles leaves his wife and children. Records show him moving to a house on Avenue Road in Toronto.

August 18, 1896: John Charles Smith, Jr. (Jack Pickford) is born in Toronto.

Circa 1896: When Gladys becomes seriously ill with diphtheria, she is baptized by a Catholic priest and her middle name is changed to ‘Marie.’

February 11, 1898: John Smith dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after suffering an accident on the job.

Late 1899: To make extra money, Charlotte rents a room to the manager of the Valentine Stock Company of Toronto, who suggests that Gladys and Lottie be cast in a play.

January 8, 1900: ‘Baby Gladys Smith’ makes her stage debut at Toronto’s Princess Theatre. She plays two roles in The Silver King: a female character referred to as ‘Big Girl’ and a boy named Ned.

November 1901: Gladys, Charlotte, Jack and Lottie begin touring the country and performing in plays.

Mary onstage, 1905Circa 1905: The Smith family becomes acquainted with fellow stage actors Lillian and Dorothy Gish and their mother, Mary, when both families share a room in Manhattan one summer.

1907: At the suggestion of theatrical producer David Belasco, Gladys Smith becomes ‘Mary Pickford.’ The new moniker is inspired by her middle name, Marie, and her maternal grandfather’s name, John Pickford Hennessey.

December 3, 1907: Mary begins her run in William de Mille’s play, The Warrens of Virginia, at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway. William’s brother, Cecil, plays Mary’s older brother.

March 1909: The Smiths find themselves unemployed after The Warrens of Virginia closes, and Charlotte suggests Mary seek work in the new medium of moving pictures.

April 20, 1909: Mary performs in her first film – a small role as a ten-year-old girl in the short Her First Biscuits, directed by D.W. Griffith – and signs on with the Biograph Company at $10 per day. On this day, she also meets future husband, fellow Biograph actor Owen Moore.

April 24, 1909: Mary gets her first starring role in a Biograph short, playing Giannina in The Violin Maker of Cremona.

August 21, 1909: Mary is singled out in a movie review when the New York Dramatic Mirror writes of the short They Would Elope: “This delicious little comedy introduced again an ingénue whose work in Biograph pictures is attracting attention.”

January 1910: Mary travels to Southern California with the Biograph Company, where they will film through the winter. During this time, Florence Lawrence, known as ‘The Biograph Girl’ moves to Carl Laemmle’s Independent Moving Picture Company of America (IMP), and Mary Pickford becomes the new ‘Biograph Girl.’

December 1910: Mary leaves Griffith and signs on with IMP at $175 per week.

Mary in the IMP short 'Tween Two LovesJanuary 7, 1911: After borrowing a long dress and high heels from the wardrobe department, Mary marries Owen Moore in a secret ceremony in Jersey City, N.J.

January 1911: Mary stars in her first IMP short, entitled Their First Misunderstanding, with Owen Moore as her leading man. Shortly afterward, the IMP company moves to Palacio del Carneado, just outside of Havana, Cuba.

September 1911: After returning to New York from Cuba, Mary breaks free from her IMP contract and signs with the Majestic Company at $225 per week.

January 1912: After filming a handful of shorts with the Majestic and Selig companies, Mary returns to the Biograph Company, where she will stay through March of 1913.

1912: Mary’s fame grows; by the end of the year, she has become a sensation, and according to David Belasco’s 1915 Photoplay article, is frequently referred to as ‘The Queen of the Movies.’

Summer 1912: After seeing their old friend on screen in the short Lena and the Geese, the Gishes head to the Biograph office to find Mary. She introduces Lillian and Dorothy to D.W. Griffith, who hires them both.

December 1912: David Belasco casts Mary in his new stage production, A Good Little Devil.

January 9, 1913: Mary debuts as Julia in A Good Little Devil at Belasco’s Republic Theatre, and receives glowing reviews.

April 1913: Adolph Zukor films a feature version of A Good Little Devil for his new Famous Players Company. Mary reprises her role as Julia in her first feature-length film; Zukor shelves it for eleven months and releases it in 1914.

April 1913: Mary signs a one-year contract with Zukor at Famous Players for $500 a week.

September 10, 1913: In the Bishop’s Carriage is released to critical and box-office success. A reviewer from Bioscope magazine calls it, “the sort of picture that is wanted more urgently every day now.”

October 1913: Shortly after wrapping Caprice, a feature in which she stars alongside Owen, Mary is hospitalized and undergoes an urgent appendectomy.

March 20, 1914: Tess of the Storm Country is released to great success. Variety declares “Little Mary Pickford comes into her own,” and that she has stuck “another feather in her movie crown.” Mary’s fame soars and her salary is doubled to $1000 a week, making her the world’s highest-paid actress.

April 1914: Mary meets artist and writer Frances Marion, who is just breaking into the screenwriting business, and a long-standing personal and professional relationship begins.

July 5, 1914: Mary’s old Biograph co-star and friend James Kirkwood directs his first Pickford feature, The Eagle’s Mate. He will go on to direct 8 more films for Mary, including Rags and Esmeralda.

1914: Movie theater owner David Grauman nicknames Mary ‘America’s Sweetheart.’

January 1915: Mary’s salary is doubled to $2000 per week.

May 1915: Mary meets co-star Marshall Neilan while filming Rags. She will hire ‘Mickey’ to direct many of her most popular films including Stella Maris and Daddy-Long-Legs.

November 1915:  Mary attends a party at the home of friend Elsie Janis in Tarrytown, N.Y. where she meets Douglas Fairbanks. Both are married and at the party with their spouses, but the two strike a friendship.

May 1916: After 20 successful features together, including Cinderella (1914) and Rags (1915), Mary and Zukor renegotiate her salary again, settling on $10,000 a week. The new deal also gives Mary the power to choose her own projects, writers and directors, releasing films under the Artcraft name.

June 17, 1916: Zukor’s Famous Players merges with Jesse L. Lasky’s Feature Play Company, forming Famous Players-Lasky.

August 1916: Mary is the first movie star to form her own production company. Mary Pickford Film Corporation will produce only Pickford films to be distributed by the Artcraft division at Famous Players-Lasky.

September 1916: Famous Players-Lasky Corporation takes control of Paramount Pictures, a film distribution company.

December 1916: Mary and Douglas Fairbanks share an emotional drive through Central Park after Fairbanks’ mother dies, and the two begin their love affair. Shortly afterward, Mary moves permanently to Los Angeles and will shoot all of her subsequent films there.

March 5, 1917: The Poor Little Rich Girl, written (adapted from a 1913 stage play) by Mary’s friend Frances Marion, debuts to great acclaim. Mary, at 25, convincingly plays a girl of 12.

Johanna Enlists, 1917April 1917: The United States enters World War I, which had been raging in Europe for about four years. Mary embarks on a two-film deal with Zukor to be directed by Cecil B. DeMille in A Romance of the Redwoods and The Little American.

Autumn 1917: Mary again successfully portrays a young girl in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (released in September) and A Little Princess (released in November), both adapted by Frances Marion from popular novels.

January 21, 1918: Mary’s acting triumph, Stella Maris, is released. Playing the dual roles of pampered invalid Stella Maris and homely orphan Unity Blake, Mary transforms herself into two distinct physical personas.

April 1918: Mary, Douglas Fairbanks, Marie Dressler and Charlie Chaplin tour the country promoting Liberty Bonds. Together they sell over $18 billion in bonds, and the world discovers the power movie stars have over the public.

September 29, 1918: Artcraft releases Johanna Enlists, a film in which Mary supports the Allied soldiers by telling them not to come back until they’ve taken “the germ out of Germany!”

October 22, 1918: Beth Fairbanks files for divorce on grounds of infidelity, without naming Mary as a correspondent.

November 6, 1918: Mary parts ways with Adolph Zukor, accepting an offer from First National Exhibitors’ Circuit for $675,000 plus half of the profits for three pictures.

Mary, Doug and Charlie, 1919January 15, 1919: Seeking total financial and artistic control of the production and distribution of their films, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and William S. Hart draw up a letter of intention to form United Artists.

February 5, 1919: After losing Hart to a deal with Adolph Zukor, Pickford, Fairbanks, Chaplin and Griffith officially join forces to form United Artists Corporation.

1919: Mary forms The Mary Pickford Company, devoted exclusively to producing films distributed by United Artists.

Mary and Frances Marion, 1919January 18, 1920: Pollyanna, adapted by Frances Marion, is released. Mary’s first production for United Artists, the picture grosses $1.1 million.

March 2, 1920: Mary travels with Charlotte to Nevada to obtain a divorce from Owen Moore on grounds of desertion.

March 28, 1920: Mary and Douglas Fairbanks marry in an intimate ceremony at the Glendale, Calif. home of Rev. J. Whitcomb Brougher. They move into a converted hunting lodge in Beverly Hills owned by Fairbanks, later to be dubbed ‘Pickfair.’

Mary and Doug embark on their European honeymoon, 1920June 1920: Joining fellow newlyweds Frances Marion and Fred Thomson on a European honeymoon, Mary and Doug visit cities such as London and Paris where they are swarmed by fans.

1921: Mary helps create the Motion Picture Relief Fund, a financial assistance fund for film industry employees in need. Joseph Schenck serves as president, and Mary is vice-president.

September 11, 1921: Mary makes cinematic history by portraying both a boy and his mother in Little Lord Fauntleroy, another commercially and critically successful dual role.

1922: Mary and Doug open the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio at Santa Monica Blvd. and Formosa Ave. in Hollywood.

October 1922: Mary hires German director Ernst Lubitsch to helm Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall; he will instead direct Pickford in Rosita (1923).

November 1922: Mary remakes one of her biggest early hits, Tess of the Storm Country, after purchasing the story rights from Adolph Zukor for $50,000.

1925: Mary buys 132 reels of her Biograph films.

September 19, 1926: Sparrows, Mary’s first thriller and the last film in which she will play a child, premieres on a double bill with Doug’s The Black Pirate at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

April 30, 1927: Mary and Doug become the first stars to imprint their hands and feet in cement in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

May 1927: Mary and Doug are founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

October 31, 1927: My Best Girl, Mary’s final silent film, is released. The picture co-stars Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers.

March 21, 1928: Charlotte Pickford, Mary’s mother and biggest supporter, dies of breast cancer.

March 29, 1928: Mary, Doug, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Gloria Swanson, Norma Talmadge, Dolores Del Rio and John Barrymore lend their voices to a Dodge Motors-sponsored radio broadcast to prove their ability to handle the new technology of talking pictures. The reviews are largely negative.

June 21, 1928: Mary makes the front page of the New York Times and shocks the world by cropping her signature curls into a short bob. She later writes of the decision, “Were the choice given to me again, I am positive I would not do it.”

Mary with bobbed hair, 1929 - Photo by Edwin Bower HesserApril 12, 1929: Coquette, Mary’s first sound feature, premieres. Despite Mary’s ambivalence toward the sound medium, public reaction is favorable, and the film grosses $1.4 million.

October 1929: Mary and Doug work together in The Taming of the Shrew, their first and last co-starring film.

Late 1929: Mary and Doug take a trip around the world.

April 3, 1930: Mary wins a Best Actress Academy Award for her work in Coquette.

1932: Mary starts the Payroll Pledge Program, a plan in which movie studio employees donate one-half of one percent of their paychecks to the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

January 3, 1933: Jack Pickford dies in Paris at age 36 due to health problems relating to alcoholism.

March 15, 1933: Secrets, Mary’s final film, opens the same week President Roosevelt closes the banks. Like all films released this week, Secrets performs poorly at the box-office.

July 2, 1933: Louella Parsons’ gossip column in the Los Angeles Examiner prints the news that Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks are divorcing.

December 8, 1933: Mary sues Doug for divorce.

Late December 1933: Mary appears in the play The Church Mouse at New York City’s Paramount Theatre on Broadway.

Late 1933: Mary is in discussions with Walt Disney to portray Alice in a live-action-meets-animation version of Alice in Wonderland. The project never materializes.

1934: Mary pens Why Not Try God?, a booklet touting Christian Science.

August 7, 1934: Mary publishes her novel The Demi-Widow (with assistance from Belle Burns Gromer). The book is generally well-received.

1935: Mary writes another booklet for the Christian Science church entitled My Rendezvous With Life.

January 10, 1936: Mary’s divorce from Doug becomes final.

February 1936: Mary begins hosting Parties at Pickfair, a CBS radio program that will be canceled after 13 weeks, proving unpopular with a Depression-era public.

March 7, 1936: Douglas Fairbanks marries British socialite Lady Sylvia Ashley.

September 1936: Mary partners with Jesse Lasky to form Pickford-Lasky Productions. They produce two films, One Rainy Afternoon and The Gay Desperado, before dissolving their union.

December 9, 1936: Lottie Pickford dies of a heart attack.

Buddy and Mary, 1937June 24, 1937: Mary marries Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers in a ceremony at friend and screenwriter Hope Loring’s house. Ten years earlier, Loring had written the screenplay for My Best Girl, the film that brought Rogers and Pickford together.

1938: Mary develops Mary Pickford Cosmetics, a range of make-up products designed to be affordable to the masses.

June 9, 1939: Owen Moore dies of a cerebral hemorrhage.

December 12, 1939: Douglas Fairbanks dies of a heart attack.

1941: Mary is co-founder of the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers, along with Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Walt Disney, David O. Selznick, Samuel Goldwyn, Alexander Korda and Walter Wanger.

May 2, 1943: Mary and Buddy adopt a son, Ronald Charles Pickford Rogers.

1944: Mary and Buddy adopt a daughter, Roxanne Pickford Rogers.

1949: Mary, Buddy and Malcolm Boyd form PRB (Pickford-Rogers-Boyd), a radio and television production company based in New York City.

1950: Mary discusses the possibility of playing Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, but for a variety of reasons the role goes to Gloria Swanson.

February 1951: Mary and Charlie Chaplin hand over the reins of United Artists Corporation to lawyers.

March 19, 1953: Mary appears on television at the 25th annual Academy Awards, handing Cecil B. DeMille his Oscar for The Greatest Show on Earth.

March-June 1954: Mary’s own version of her life story is published serially in issues of McCall’s magazine; these articles will serve as the basis for Sunshine and Shadow, her autobiography published in 1955.

November 9, 1955: Mary receives the first George Eastman Award for her contributions to the silent film era.

February 1956: Mary sells her shares in United Artists for $3 million, after Chaplin had sold his the year before, marking the departure of the last original founder from the company.

1956: Mary establishes the Mary Pickford Charitable Trust, which will later be renamed the Mary Pickford Foundation.

October 22, 1958: Mary’s friend and frequent director, Marshall Neilan, dies from throat cancer.

August 24, 1963: James Kirkwood, another close friend and former director, dies at age 88.

October 1965: The Cinémathèque Française holds a Mary Pickford retrospective celebrating her films; Mary travels to Paris for the event.

From Sunday Times magazine, ca. 1970May, 1971: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art sponsors a worldwide celebration of Mary’s body of work, with simultaneous screenings of her films in cities across the globe.

May 27, 1973: The Ontario Heritage Foundation erects a plaque honoring Mary near her Toronto birthplace.

March 29, 1976: Mary receives an honorary Oscar for her contribution to motion pictures. No longer making public appearances, she accepts the award from Pickfair.

May 29, 1979: Mary Pickford dies at Santa Monica Hospital following a stroke.

 
Sources:

Bean, Jennifer. Flickers of Desire: Movie Stars of the 1910s. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2011.

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

Brownlow, Kevin. Mary Pickford Rediscovered: Rare Pictures of a Hollywood Legend. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

Herdon, Booton. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. New York: WW Norton, 1977.

Leavey, Peggy Dymond. Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2011.

Niver, Kemp R. D.W. Griffith: His Biograph Films in Perspective. Los Angeles: John D. Roche, Inc., 1974.

Pickford, Mary. “My Whole Life.” McCall’s, March-June, 1954.

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

Slide, Anthony. Selected Film Criticism, Volume 1. New York: Scarecrow Press, 1982.

Walker, Alexander. The Shattered Silents: How the Talkies Came to Stay. London: Elm Tree Books, 1978.

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