About the Foundation

When Mary Pickford revised her will in 1971, she liked the idea proposed by her longtime trusted financial advisor, Ed Stotsenberg, to leave the bulk of her estate to a foundation 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.

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. As early as 1934, Pickford donated a collection of her costumes to what is now the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles and the Foundation has maintained that connection by gifting more of her costumes to that institution. 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. Since then the Foundation has increased donations for education and maintained endowments at more than twenty universities and colleges. Every year, over forty 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.

Mary Pickford signing autographs, photo by K.O. Rahmn

In 2012, the Foundation established an online website to serve as a virtual office and as an immediately accessible research and educational clearinghouse. Original videos and writings, photographs, collections, film clips and historical material illustrating the tremendous impact Mary Pickford and her colleagues had on the film industry are featured. The site also highlights upcoming events as well as Foundation partnerships and projects.

Today, the Foundation actively 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 new audiences in theaters throughout the world. The Foundation is also partnering with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to support the Academy’s planned museum and has established an annual Mary Pickford Celebration of Silent Film. In addition, the Foundation continues to add 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.

Throughout her life, Mary Pickford was committed to hands-on philanthropy and her Foundation continues to promote that philosophy by using the power of its people and other assets to make social change. For example, the Foundation has initiated and manages a number of charitable projects, such as:

  • Initiating and managing a program for intellectually disabled adults in partnership with Exceptional Children’s Foundation and the Foundation’s scholarship program with Pasadena School of Design
  • Initiating and co-managing a major social and behavioral study in partnership with UCLA and the Motion Picture Television Fund that includes scholarship funding.
  • Financially supporting and directing numerous student and other young composers and musicians in the creation of new and modern scores for silent film.
  • Conducting educational panels for several university music and film schools.
  • Initiating and co-managing partnerships with major archives around the world for the restorations of silent films.

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.

EBArcher@MaryPickford.org

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 five other non-fiction books including her latest, My First Time in HOllywood: Stories from the Pioneers, Dreamers and Misfits who made the Movies.  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 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.

CBeauchamp@MaryPickford.org

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About Mary Pickford

On the set of SparrowsMary Pickford (1892-1979) was a multifaceted pioneer of early cinema. She was a talented performer, a creative producer and a savvy businesswoman who helped shape the film industry as we know it today.

Mary Pickford rose steadily to fame at a time when there was no path to follow. Actresses who came after her, such as Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow, cut pictures from fan magazines, pinned them to their walls and dreamed of stardom. Mary was known as “the girl with the curls” and “the Biograph girl” before audiences learned her name; fan magazines were created because of stars like Mary Pickford. In fact, the very first issue of Photoplay in 1912 featured Mary dressed in character for Little Red Riding Hood. Her first film director was D.W. Griffith and she went on to work with most of the greats of her era such as Cecil B. De Mille, Allan Dwan, James Kirkwood, Marshall Neilan, Sidney Franklin, Maurice Tourneur and Ernst Lubitsch. Her career was buoyed by fellow professionals who were also friends, including the cinematographer Charles Rosher and the screenwriter Frances Marion, at a time when the art form was in a near constant state of change.

Mary and Charlotte on the Poor Little Rich Girl set, 1916Between 1912 and 1919, Mary Pickford jumped between a variety of studios, increasing her paychecks astronomically each time until she risked it all by joining with Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin to form United Artists. The reaction from studio bosses is summed up by the oft repeated line, “The inmates have taken over the asylum” and it was not a smooth road, but they found the success that was most important to them because they totally controlled their own product. Mary would risk her career again the following year when she made the decision that instead of being “America’s sweetheart, I want to be one man’s sweetheart.” At a time when stars were told they could not be divorced and still be big box office, Mary divorced Owen Moore and married Doug Fairbanks in 1920. But instead of being a pariah, her popularity, and that of her new husband, soared as their union was greeted as a storybook marriage and they were hailed as Hollywood royalty. They would reign from their Beverly Hills home, dubbed Pickfair, until she filed for divorce in 1933.

Tess of the Storm Country, Pickford Studio -- L to R: G.V. Kilgore, painting department; Frank Ormston, art director; Mary Pickford.By then, Mary was working behind the scenes as a producer and a board member of United Artists. She was a founder of the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers in 1941 and she was the last of the original United Artists founders to sell her interest in the mid-1950s. Her final film as an actress, Secrets, was released in 1933, the same week that newly elected President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday, closing down all financial institutions at the height of the Depression. She had already established herself as one of the most successful actresses of all time, won an Academy Award for her first “talkie,” Coquette, and went on to receive an honorary Oscar for her contribution to motion pictures in 1976. Mary Pickford was also an early leader in the film preservation movement and an ardent supporter of creating a museum devoted to the art of moviemaking.

Mary and Doug at Pickfair, 1920Philanthropy was also a hallmark of Mary Pickford’s long life. As the renowned film historian Kevin Brownlow says, “Mary herself did an incredible amount for charity, the full extent of which will probably never be known.” While much of her giving was done quietly, to friends or friends-of-friends in need, it was when she was selling war bonds in 1918 that she first learned how she could use her influence and popularity to inspire others to give, and she would go on to leverage that power in a variety of endeavors. She was a hands-on contributor to organizations supporting the creative community. She was one of the original founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a founder and first vice-president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund. In 1932, before the creation of the Screen Actors Guild, Mary spearheaded the Payroll Pledge Program which financed the Relief Fund by deducting one half of one percent from the salaries of those making over two hundred dollars a week. A decade later, she was there with shovel in hand to break ground for what would be the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital.

We still have much to learn from both the work and life of Mary Pickford. As D.W. Griffith said about Mary in 1928: “She has tremendous driving power in her … and a most remarkable talent for self-appraisal. She never ‘kids’ herself. The thing that most attracted me the day I first saw her was the intelligence that shone in her face. I found she was thirsty for work and information. She could not be driven from the studio while work was going on. She was – and is – a sponge for experience.”

In the words of journalist Herbert Howe in a 1924 Photoplay, “No role she can play on the screen is as great as the role she plays in the motion picture industry. Mary Pickford the actress is completely overshadowed by Mary Pickford the individual.”

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