When Mary Pickford revised her will in 1971, she liked the idea proposed by her longtime accountant, Ed Stotsenberg, to leave the bulk of her estate to a foundation rather than a religious institution and she authorized three named directors, including Stotsenberg, to form a non-profit corporation upon her death. When Pickford’s estate was probated in 1982, instead of creating a new foundation, the directors activated the long dormant “Mary Pickford Foundation,” originally formed by Pickford in the 1950s. In 1982, the Mary Pickford Foundation – with assets of only $312 – received $8 million from the Pickford estate, most of it coming from the sale of Pickfair and the $3 million she reinvested from the sale of United Artists. Since then, the Mary Pickford Foundation has disbursed almost $20 million in charitable giving and currently has assets over $15 million.
It was Pickford herself who decided to preserve her films by housing them at the Library of Congress, with the hope that they would be of interest and scientific value for future generations in showing the development of the motion picture art and science. In January of 1979, just before her death, she placed her substantial collection of photographs, documents and other memorabilia at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library to establish The Mary Pickford Collection for use by students and scholars. In 1983, the Mary Pickford Foundation granted money as well as documents, scrapbooks, materials and memorabilia to the Academy’s Mary Pickford Collection.
In 1997, the current generation of directors was appointed to the Board by the original directors named by Mary in her will. The current directors have increased donations for education and maintained endowments at more than ten universities and colleges. Every year, over two dozen students receive scholarships in Mary Pickford’s name.
The Foundation has also continued Pickford’s commitment to her fellow professionals in the industry in a variety of ways. Mary was one of the original founders of the Motion Picture Relief Fund, the organization that led to the creation of the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospitals. In 2000, the Foundation gave a $1,200,000 gift to the organization now known as the Motion Picture & Television Fund. Mary was also a founder of the Jewish Home for the Aging and over the years, the Foundation has donated an additional $700,000.
In 2012, the Foundation decided to establish an online center that would serve as an immediately accessible research and educational tool, library and clearinghouse.
Today, the Foundation cooperates with film archives worldwide on joint preservation projects, implements educational outreach programs in universities nationwide, and works to bring restored and rare films to theaters. The Foundation has also partnered with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to support the Academy’s planned museum and to establish an annual Mary Pickford Celebration of Silent Film. In addition, the Foundation has added material to the Mary Pickford Collection at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library where they are working to professionally digitize documents, scrapbooks and photographs for future generations to study.
Edward Stotsenberg Interview (Excerpt)
Ed Stotsenberg was Mary Pickford’s trusted financial adviser for over thirty years. It was his idea for Mary to form a foundation; she took his advice, and the Mary Pickford Foundation was born.
Elaina Archer, Director of Archive and Legacy
Elaina is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with a degree in Film History and Criticism from the University of Texas at Austin. She previously worked with the Pickford Foundation as manager of their library from 1996 to 2001. Her documentaries include Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu, Clara Bow: Discovering the ‘It’ Girl, In Mary’s Shadow: The Story of Jack Pickford, and Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies. Elaina produced, edited, co-wrote and directed the film Rita in 2002 for Turner Classic Movies & Playboy Entertainment, Inc., and Gangland: Bullets Over Hollywood for Starz Encore Entertainment in 2006. In 2008, she produced, co-wrote and edited a documentary on early film censorship, Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema, for Hugh M. Hefner and Playboy Entertainment, Inc. Clara Bow: Discovering the ‘It’ Girl won the gold Telly Award in 2000, and Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies won an Aurora Award in 2002.
Cari Beauchamp, The Pickford Foundation Resident Scholar
Cari is the award-winning author of Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood and four other non-fiction books including her latest, Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years. She is the only person to twice be named an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Scholar. She has also written and produced documentaries and appeared in many as a film historian including Turner Classic Movie’s Moguls and Movie Stars and Mark Cousin’s The Story of Film. She writes for Vanity Fair and is a judge for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards.