Audio Recordings & Transcripts

Mary Pickford Audio Interview About the Academy

This interview was conducted by Erskine Johnson on March 10th, 1947

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Erskine Johnson

Mary Pickford…


Mary Pickford

Talking pictures could have learned a lot from silent pictures, especially the value of not talking so much.


Erskine Johnson

I’ll be back with the stories behind the headlines and today’s Hollywood confessions in just a moment.

Record Static noise – typewriter chimes in.


Erskine Johnson

America’s Sweetheart. I’m not going to introduce today’s guest because you all know her so well. Lets just say it’s nice to hear from America’s Sweetheart again. May we wish to thank the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences for making it possible. If it hadn’t been for attending their awards ceremony in Hollywood, Thursday night, Mary Pickford would still be in New York City.


Mary Pickford

Oooohhhbrr, lets not think about New York, Erkstine. I have to go back there after the ceremony. I love the city but, as a Californian, I simply freeze there in the snowy winter.


Erskine Johnson


Alright Mary, we’ll make you happy. We’ll talk about the Academy. Remember one day, I was up at Pickfair, you told me the Academy was practically born there.


Mary Pickford

Yes it was. Fred Niblo and Conrad Nagel came over one evening to talk about the idea. Then later, several of us had meetings at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to formulate organization’s hands (?) There were all of 25 of us, Erskine.


Erskine Johnson

And before long, Oscars were being awarded for outstanding services to the Motion Picture industry. In 1930, you received an Oscar as the best actress of 1929, in the picture, Coquette.


Mary Pickford

I never will forget that night, Erskine.


Erskine Johnson

Mary, just to make the ladies happy, I don’t suppose you can try to remember what you wore that night, could you?


Mary Pickford

Why, I do remember. A gown, A Jean Tatou model of pink tool with trimming and paper rose sequins. With it I wore a little tubelero (?) also trimmed in sequins. And uh, oh yes, I wore my hair very short.


Erskine Johnson

Because you had cut it for the role of Norma in Coquette. Something unintelligible about the reporters – needs audio clean up.


Mary Pickford

That was the reason exactly.


Erskine Johnson

You know, I’d like to go on asking you stories about the Academy and its work in the past Mary, but I the Pickford thoughts are always in the future. So, let’s pretend it is 1952, Academy Award time. Tell me, what’s happening, Mary.


Mary Pickford

Well, if my dreams come true, we would be talking about the Academy’s National Theatre.


Erskine Johnson

The National Theater?


Mary Pickford

Well, uh, actually,the United States National Theater in Washington, working closely with Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Units like stock companies would be sent all over the country. The theater would be sort of a mecca for established motion picture actors and actresses, and of course, those in the theater too. At regular intervals, they can return to the stage in a National Theater play.


Erskine Johnson

That would certainly help the ambitious —- (?) of tomorrow too.


Mary Pickford

Oh, Erskine, I have another dream which involves you. When that dream comes true, the Academy will work with the colleges. A board of Academy experts will pass upon a girl who has outstanding ability in drama classes, or a boy with unusual promise in photography, or, or a young writer who is talented. When qualified, they, um, when they are found qualified, the students will be given a year’s work in a motion picture studio at a present (?) pay.


Mary Pickford

That would certainly cover every phase of the motion picture industry I think.


Mary Pickford

From acting to design, from film cutting to directing.


Erskine Johnson

And I suppose too that would be especially helpful to these shy boys and girls who need a little push in the right direction.


Mary Pickford

Oh, everyone needs that push, Erskine. Why look at Clark Gable. He played bit roles for years before being discovered. I say let’s help the youth. And, what better way than through a respected organization like the Academy.


Erskine Johnson

You know, I guess the Academy has done a lot of growing in its short life, Mary. So, let’s hope it grows up to fulfill those dreams of yours. Before I forget, I meant to ask you, what do you think is the biggest problem the Academy ever tackled?


Mary Pickford

The change from silent films into sound pictures. Most people didn’t realize it, but Hollywood was practically in a state of siege during the transition. Everyone was bewildered, panic stricken. The Academy assembled all the technicians in the industry. They exchanged ideas and knowledge. Out of that exchange, sound pictures got on an even keel to replace the silent pictures. (chuckles) A little too much, I think.


Erskine Johnson

Well, now Mary, you don’t want silent back, do you?


Mary Pickford

No, of course not. But, I think there’s too much talking and not enough action in pictures today, Erskine. People go to the movies to escape to lose themselves in other lives. How can their imagination have full play when everything is done for them on the screen? Every emotion becomes a spoken word. Motion pictures patterned themselves too much after the restrictive area of the stage where so much emphasis necessarily must be on dialogue. The camera is a living medium with an almost unlimited range, and should be allowed the fullest latitude in story- telling. In other words, Erskine, let the movies move.


Erskine Johnson

And there I agree with you. Talkies can be much too talkie. I’ll bet a lot of movies goers are applauding your feelings. Speaking of movie-goers, Buddy Rogers told me your son Ronny likes to go to the movies. Has daughter, Roxanne arrived at the movie-going stage yet?


Mary Pickford

Not quite, but I’m looking forward to the comments. Children can certainly be surprising. For example, my niece Gwynne’s little girl Susan, put me in my place not long ago. She’s two-and-a-half and unconsciously I used baby-talk with her. Not the correct maybe, but also unconsciously she asked —— (?) “um, what is it you wanted me to do Aunt Mary?” ohhh, no more baby talk for Aunt Mary.


Erskine Johnson

Now that we have that resolution of yours, Mary, how about that Hollywood confession?


Mary Pickford

Well, as you know, Erskine, as a die-in-the-wool American, I’m always warning my countrymen to always take pride (?) in what is theirs, But, in one case I would like to see a foreign nation take something from us. I’m looking forward to the day when England wins several Oscars, on the basis of merit, of course. That would mean the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences had become the great international institution we want it to be.


Erskine Johnson

And thank you very much for that Hollywood confession, Mary Pickford and for being our guest today. I’ll see you at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences presentation ceremony Thursday night, and good luck for those dreams for the Academy’s future. I’ll be back with more Hollywood news in just…




Mary Pickford / CBC Audio Interview

Mary Pickford Interviewed by Tony Thomas of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation at Pickfair

May 25, 1959

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Tony Thomas:                         Miss Pickford, in Canada we’ve always taken delight in the fact that America’s Sweetheart was a Canadian. Now just where did you come from?

Mary Pickford:                        I was born in Toronto, Canada, and so was my father, and my mother.

TT:                                          Whereabouts in Toronto?

MP:                                         On University Avenue.

TT:                                          Have you seen it lately?

MP:                                         No, it’s torn down now.

TT:                                          Because University Avenue is a big, wide thoroughfare of office blocks and hospitals and things.

MP:                                         Do you want me to tell you how I feel about it?

TT:                                          Please do.

MP:                                         Oh, I’m very sad about my old Toronto.

TT:                                          Yes?

MP:                                         Mmm-hmm. You know, I used to ride down on my bicycle right from Young Street down to Queen and I didn’t have to pedal at all. You know, there’s quite a little hill there.

TT:                                          Yes, you wouldn’t notice it today. Of course, nobody ever rides a bicycle down University Avenue.

MP:                                         Well, I did, you know. When I went back even after the trees had been taken down in the bicycle path, I told the newspaper people how I loved my bicycle and when I was photographed in front of the house where I was born, there stood a bicycle.

TT:                                          (Laughing) What was Toronto like in those days? I suppose it was quite quiet and provincial.

MP:                                         We used to have you know horses, naturally, and I still bear a scar that uh… coming down University Avenue and turning west, I think, on Queen, I got right in front of a pair of horses. And I had to put the brakes on the best I knew how, and I gouged my ankle and I still have the mark there. I like it, you know.

TT:                                          What, the mark?

MP:                                         Yes.

TT:                                          It gives you something to reminisce about.

MP:                                         Oh yes, and you know, I think at least once a month I dream that I’m back again in Toronto. Up in Queen’s Park, High Park, up north on Young Street…

TT:                                          Tell me, what kind of a family was yours? What did your father do and how many Pickfords were there?

MP:                                         Well you see, my father’s name was Smith.

TT:                                          Oh, Smith.

MP:                                         John Charles Smith. And I get the name of Pickford from my mother’s people. My father’s people were born in England and came up the Saint Lawrence River. Grandma Smith went to Toronto when she was six years of age and attended the Methodist church, the same church for eighty years.

TT:                                          Quite a record isn’t it? Eighty years.

MP:                                         And when she was eighty-six she retired and died at the age of ninety-one. And my grandfather Joseph Smith also was born in… Liverpool, I think. Grandma came from London, and my mother’s people were Irish. They came from Tralee, County Kerry.

TT:                                          That’s where the rose came from, isn’t it?

MP;                                         (Laughing) We’re the black Irish, you know. The dangerous kind. You look like a black Irishman yourself.

TT:                                          I’m a black bushman.

MP:                                         Oh, sure you are.

TT:                                          How many brothers and sisters did you have?

MP:                                         I had one brother, Jack. When I loved him very much I called him Johnny, when I didn’t like him so well I called him Jack. And then I had a sister, Lottie. They were both younger than I, and my mother and father were also born in Toronto. So you see, I’m a real Torontonian.

TT:                                          Now, where did the interest in the theatrical life come into being as far as you’re concerned?

MP:                                         Well, it was a matter of economics. None of my family on either side ever were in the theater, in fact they disapproved of it heartily. Grandma, being a very strict Methodist of course, didn’t believe in the theater or dancing or anything like that. But when my father died I was four years of age, and mother was left with the three of us and her paralyzed mother, so she had five mouths to feed. And when my father died, they had used up all of their savings for doctors. Even sent to the States as we called it – do you still call it the States in Canada?

TT:                                          Yes.

MP:                                         You do?

TT:                                          Yes.

MP:                                         Well, so we came to the States after my father died but that… I’m going ahead of myself. When father died, mother had nothing but her furniture and so, after a very sad time, we were all dispersed. My brother was in one house, my sister in another and I in another. I don’t know where my poor old grandma was because mother… well, she was so terribly upset about my father’s death she wanted nothing to do with anyone she’d ever known until my brother, Jack, became ill and they said to her, “Do you know, Lottie,” – that was my mama’s name – “that little Johnny is very ill and needs you?” And that did more than all the doctors and all the medicine for my mother. She realized then she had no time for sorrow, and so we were reunited. And mother sewed very well. She was reared a Catholic in a convent… she didn’t remain in the convent, she went there during the day, and they taught her to sew. So she became a seamstress and made dresses for the people of the neighborhood, and rented out our master bedroom, and never to anyone but to a woman. One day, a man came to the door and said he wanted to rent our bedroom, and mother said, “Oh no, I’ve never rented to a man.” He said, “Well, I’m a married man. I’m sure you’d like my wife. May I bring her to see you?” Mother said, “I’d be delighted to meet her,” and with the result that they took the bedroom. Well, he happened to be the manager, the stage manager of a company then called the Valentine Stock Company, and he said, “Mrs. Smith, we’re putting on a play next week that requires children. Would you allow your three babies to appear in the school room scene?” Mother said, “Gracious, no! I wouldn’t allow my children to meet actresses – why, they smoke!” He said, “Well, some of them do smoke but not all of them, Mrs. Smith.” And he said, “I assure you that the ladies and gentlemen of this company are just as nice as any of your friends.” He said, “As a matter of fact, they’ve been together many years… it’s like a family.” He said, “Come down with me tonight backstage and if you find anything that is unpleasant or anything that you wouldn’t like, then I agree with you.” So mother went to the theater that night and of course they were charming and nice people. You know, in our profession there are good, bad and indifferent, but these people happened to be very nice, so mother agreed with the result that I became a member of that company.

TT:                                          How old were you then?

MP:                                         Five. Five years of age. Lottie was a year younger and Johnny two years and a half.

TT:                                          That’s a very early start in the acting profession.

MP:                                         Oh, there are some that have been carried on the stage, you know. (Laughing)

TT:                                          (Laughing)

MP:                                         I remember it as though it were yesterday, and I just loved it. You see, I think… I don’t know where I got this ham blood in me. Certainly it must… yes, I do know. John Pickford Hennessey, that’s where I got it from. He was the only one in my ancestry as far as I know that loved the theater. You see, that’s where I got my name of Pickford. His mother’s name was Elizabeth Pickford and she was born in England, so you see I’m predominantly English.

TT:                                          Well now, were you on the stage at the age of five?

MP:                                         Yes, forever after.

TT:                                          (Laughing) But what about schooling? Did you go to school in the day and work at night?

MP:                                         No, as a matter of fact I think I only went to school about three months.

TT:                                          Only three months schooling?

MP:                                         Well, my mother taught me and I am self-taught. I got the best books I could find and I have a very good ear and a splendid memory, I am grateful to say. And do you know that they say I speak fairly good French?

TT:                                          Mmm-hmm.

MP:                                         I learned that too, but I was taught that. But mother was, as I said, convent-bred and had a splendid education and I worked from the time I was five until today. I’m still working.

TT:                                          When did you feel that you had really arrived in the theater? At what age were you established?

MP:                                         Well, not actually until I’d had three or four years in motion pictures. And as a little girl I was playing in these dreadful melodramas. Do you want to hear some of the names of them?

TT:                                          Please.

MP:                                         (Laughing) Well, The Fatal Wedding, Wedded But No Wife, The Child Wife… I wasn’t the bride, however… In Convict Stripes… oh, there were some worse names than that. Lottie the Sewing-Machine Girl, I didn’t happen to appear in that. But these were rip-roaring melodramas.

TT:                                          These were early silent motion pictures?

MP:                                         No, they were stage plays.

TT:                                          Stage plays? Oh. And all in New York, I suppose?

MP:                                         Oh no, oh gracious no, we were on the road. My poor little mother, she was my size, about five feet, you know, and she had traveled for nineteen weeks of one-night stands.

TT:                                          Did your mother ever reconcile herself to the fact that you were in the theatrical profession, which she seemed to dislike so much?

MP:                                         Oh I think she got over it, yes. She even appeared on the stage herself.

TT:                                          Did she?

MP:                                         Yes, and was very good too. My mother could mimic any accent. She was a much better actress than I ever thought I’d be.

TT:                                          Well, of course, only you can say that. We wouldn’t know.

MP:                                         No, mother had real talent. And the night that she appeared in The Fatal Wedding and you see, she told a fib and that was the unforgivable thing in our family – for anybody to tell a fib. And she said she’d had experience, so we were sure that God would reach down out of heaven and grab my mother up. So the three of us knelt down and prayed that they wouldn’t find out.

TT:                                          And they didn’t?

MP:                                         No.

TT:                                          Well, I won’t tell anybody.

MP:                                         Don’t you tell. (Laughing) No, we… you know, I’d send Lottie or Jack or I’d go myself to find out how mother was doing. If she would forget her lines, you know it’d be a terrible thing to do, but she didn’t and nobody found out that she had told a fib.

TT:                                          Well, Miss Pickford, when did you first become associated with motion picture work?

MP:                                         Well, I was fifteen years of age and we needed money as usual, and mother, to my great unhappiness and I would say almost annoyance – because you know my mother was a goddess to me, her word was law – and when she said to me, “Gladys,” because that’s my… you know, I was baptized Gladys Marie… and she said, “Gladys, what about trying those motion picture studios?” I said, “Oh, mama. Not that!” “Well,” she said, “It’s better that than to be separated this summer.” So very reluctantly and maybe belligerently I went into the Biograph Company, hoping that they wouldn’t see me enter. This was a disgrace, you know.

TT:                                          Mmm-hmm?

MP:                                         Oh, definitely.

TT:                                          Tell me, where were the picture studios in those days?

MP:                                         Well, the majority of them were in New York. One was in Brooklyn, the Vitagraph Company was in Brooklyn. Then there was the Lubin Company, Edison, Thanhauser, Biograph, and… what is the name of… Ruben, Lubin? There was a company in Philadelphia, and there was another in Chicago, that was Broncho Billy’s company, they were there. Nobody was out here at that time in California. And you know that the exteriors were very important. They aren’t anymore because they take these process shots, you know. I could be walking through the Sahara Desert and stay right here in this room, because they shoot the desert first and then they put the live figure in front of it, but then it was very important. And I might add, and I hope the Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles don’t hear me, but we had no smog in those days.

TT:                                          The smog came after?

MP:                                         No, it came later.

TT:                                          You were saying that you went into motion pictures almost with a chip on your shoulder. Well, how did you first get your work?

MP:                                         Well, as I entered the Biograph studio – and it was a big, old mansion with a beautiful winding staircase, a circular staircase, marble floor – and out of the opposite door, a swinging door that led to the studio proper, which was a ballroom, came the one and only D.W. Griffith, David Wark Griffith. And he looked me up and down and I resented it very much. I thought, here’s one of these awful people that work in motion pictures, and he said to me, “What do you want?” I said, “I’m looking for work.” He said, “What experience have you had?” Well, this was adding insult to injury. I said, “Only ten years.” He said, “You don’t look that old.” Well, I said, “I am. I’m fifteen years old.” Well, he said, “What did you do last?” I said, “I just came from the David Belasco Company.” He said, “That’s good enough. Come with me.” So he put on my makeup, the first motion picture makeup I ever had, and I want to tell you, I looked more like Pancho Villa…

TT:                                          (Laughing)

MP:                                         I did, you know he put enormous black eyebrows on me and in those days we used to wear chalk-white makeup, and our eyes and our mouths were greatly exaggerated. Of course we had no sound, so pantomime was the order of the day and naturally when one waves the eyebrows that’s very important, you know, in an emotional scene, but I would never do that. Mr. Griffith used to argue with me and I said, “No, sir. It’s not natural and I won’t do it.” And he… I since have wondered why he put up with a naughty little girl like I was, but he did.

TT:                                          Well, you got your start then through the great D.W. Griffith.

MP:                                         I was trained by him, and I’m so very, very grateful to him.

TT:                                          Well, he appears to be the major legend of Hollywood, the greatest man in pictures. Why? What was his quality?

MP:                                         Well, he had tremendous imagination. In those days they didn’t have what they call a cut-back, for instance showing you downtown in Los Angeles and showing me up here at Pickfair. They didn’t have that switch-back, you know?

TT:                                          Mmm-hmm.

MP:                                         And also, he… well, I think the first close-up was made of me in a picture called Friends with Henry Walthall and Lionel Barrymore. And he… oh, many, many mechanical things like irising down or irising in, you know, or fade-out. All these things came from D.W. Griffith. He was a bad actor himself.

TT:                                          Well, do you feel that most producers are frustrated actors?

MP:                                         Oh, definitely. I should… I would think so. He had a beautiful, sonorous voice and he could’ve been a singer, but when he started to act he used to frighten me because you know he exaggerated things so. And the Pathé Company, the French actors, were greatly admired by us, I mean all the Americans, and he used to try to make me do things and I just wouldn’t. I said, “No, I think if I feel it enough,” this is my mother’s training, she said, “If you feel something very, very much, your hands, your feet, every part of your being will respond to that thought.”

TT:                                          What do you think was your first really great motion picture?

MP:                                         Well, let me see. Do you mean in the very old days?

TT:                                          Yes, the one which I think would establish you as America’s Sweetheart.

MP:                                         You’re very nice. You know, I’ve never accepted that title. (Laughing)

TT:                                          (Laughing)

MP:                                         It’s too complimentary. I’ve never thought that… but I do appreciate it. Well, I would say that… Tess of the Storm Country.

TT:                                          That was… wasn’t that about the beginning of the First World War?

MP:                                         Before.

TT:                                          Before it, then? Oh yeah.

MP:                                         You know I’m getting to the age now where I’m very proud of the stripes on my arm. (Laughing)

TT:                                          (Laughing) Service stripes.

MP:                                         Yes. It was in 1914 that Pop Grauman, he was the father of the fabulous Sid Grauman, you know Million Dollar Theater?

TT:                                          Yes.

MP:                                         Chinese Grauman? He put the name outside, and it didn’t take… well, it took many years for it to catch on. But that was given to me in love and I’m so, so pleased about that. If it had been dreamed up by a press agent I wouldn’t have liked it, but this came from the heart of someone who was really fond of me.

TT:                                          What was it like making pictures in those days? From what I’ve seen today it looks like extremely exacting, hard work. In those days, was it fun or was it just as difficult?

MP:                                         Everything’s fun when you’re young.

TT:                                          And everybody felt that way then, did they?

MP:                                         Oh, I think so.

TT:                                          What was the spirit and the atmosphere of the silent picture…

MP:                                         Well, it was exciting and we were pioneers in a brand-new medium of art and… well, as I say when you look back and think on your childhood, everything… well, I don’t know about that either. I think sorrow can be very great to the very young. But I was terribly ambitious. You see, I was the father of the family and I wanted security for my people and I didn’t know anything but work. I never went anywhere, I didn’t buy clothes, I had no jewelry or… oh, my first extravagance was a car.

TT:                                          Yes.

MP:                                         And I loved my car. It was called an M… let’s see… EMF. And Johnny Pickford said, “Even Mama Fell.”

TT:                                          (Laughing)

MP:                                         And “Every Morning Fix it.” You could just know what kind of a brother I had.

TT:                                          Sounds like a typical brother.

MP:                                         And you know, years before that I said, “Oh, I’m not worried about being poor. One day I’m going to have a beautiful automobile.” So when I’d come home from work, from the Biograph, Johnny would say to my sister Lottie, “Look out the window and see if Mary has tied the Stanley Steamer to the hydrant.” And “Lottie, get out of the fun seat, I want to sit there myself.” So they’d bring up chairs and pretend they were in the Stanley Steamer.

TT:                                          (Laughing)

MP:                                         One day my cousin, one of… the Irish side, we were on 42nd Street and Broadway and I was appearing with Cecil B. DeMille at the time, The Warrens of Virginia, and this birdcage, glass birdcage went by and splashed mud all over my cousin’s one and only Sunday dress. You know, for years I used to say my “Sunday dress,” you know that was my best dress, and she would say, “Now look at those old hens.” She said, “We’re younger and prettier than they are and they splashed me with mud.” I said, “Never mind, Mamie,” I said, “We are going to have a beautiful car one day. We’re going to come by this street and maybe we’ll splash somebody.” She said, “Pardon me, Mrs. ‘Astorbilt,’ but your tiara has slipped.” And then years after, we did go by and she said, “Mary, do you remember that day?” I said, “What day?” And she repeated the story. I said, “I knew it!” I was… we were in a beautiful Cadillac. So you see that I had the feeling that I would have all these things, but of course it was a goal and I believe we always have to have a goal no matter what it is. But of course the material things now don’t mean so much to me.

(Pause of silence)

TT:                                          Well, in reviewing your career, may we assume that the twenties were the greatest era in your career?

MP:                                         Yes, I would say so.

TT:                                          This is when they were making really fine pictures at the end of the silent era.

MP:                                         Well, I’d say anywhere from about 1914 on up to about 1930.

TT:                                          Mmm-hmm. Tell me, when did you first meet Charlie Chaplin?

MP:                                         I met him in 1912 and I didn’t… well, I didn’t realize what a great genius he was at the time. I remember seeing him at the old Levy’s Café, do you know anything about that?

TT:                                          No.

MP:                                         It still exists. And my companion said, “There’s Chaplin.” And I turned around and I expected to see a middle-aged man, of course I was very young, and here was this black-haired man that looked more like a violinist, and delicate hands and sensitive face. And the waiter came along and opened a transom and let a lot of dust down onto his head and into the soup. And the waiter was very apologetic and said, “Sir,” I could tell from the pantomime, “May I get you another bowl of soup?” And Charlie just waved it away, he said, “No.” That was the first time I ever saw him. And then one time, later, there was a big ball given at Long Beach and he and a man called Pathé Lehrman who was a Biograph actor, he had been – I was out of it then, I was with Famous Players, Paramount, you know, that became Paramount later – and Charlie Chaplin took off his shoes and was imitating J. Warren Kerrigan, did you ever hear of him?

TT:                                          No.

MP:                                         You didn’t?

TT:                                          No.

MP:                                         Well, he was the Clark Gable of the day, or the Brando, or any… he was the… one of the great stars. And I thought it was very undignified. Now I can think it funny, but I didn’t think so then. (Laughing) And Pathé Lehrman introduced Chaplin to me and he gave me what my mother used to call a “cold fish hand,” you know, sort of limp and kind of cold. But I was completely disgusted with his behavior. It wasn’t naughty, it was very funny. They were imitating this very handsome… Charlie was playing my part, you see, and Lehrman was Kerrigan. And that was my first meeting with Chaplin.

TT:                                          Well, what do you feel about Charlie Chaplin today?

MP:                                         Well… that’s quite a question. I think he is, or was rather, the greatest comedian that the world has ever known.

TT:                                          Mmm-hmm.

MP:                                         I think he changed the mask of comedy – he put a mustache on it. I think it’s too bad that he destroyed the little man with the big feet.

TT:                                          The Little Tramp?

MP:                                         That’s right.

TT:                                          You think he became too grandiose?

MP:                                         No, I think he got tired of the little man and then tried to be a statesman or a politician or something that doesn’t… I think he descended. He never should have played Hitler, for instance. He could have gone on until he was ninety years of age playing a Little Tramp. He personified everything that is… well, miserable all over the world. He was a poor little human being, but had the philosophy to overcome all of the things that attacked him. And then when he became Hitler, and a murderer in Monsieur Verdoux, and the last one I haven’t seen…

TT:                                          A King in New York?

MP:                                         No, and I don’t intend to.

TT:                                          Limelight?

MP:                                         Limelight I was sad about. I didn’t want to see Charlie as an old man, and I regret it very much, and as I said to you the other day, in destroying that Little Tramp, it’s quite possible that the Little Tramp in turn will destroy Chaplin.

TT:                                          How about Charlie as a person? Is he embittered, mad at the world?

MP:                                         Well, you see I haven’t seen Charlie in eight years. But I think he’s terribly hurt from what I hear. Of course, he has a lovely wife, he has six… eight beautiful children.

TT:                                          He certainly has made a contribution to the world in several ways. (Laughing)

MP:                                         (Laughing) And I’m sure that they’re going to be talented babies. Of course Charlie Jr. I love, I don’t know much about Sidney. I saw Sidney in the theater and he gave a magnificent performance, and I think… you know, he’s just like an English squire, country squire.

TT:                                          I think you could tell us more about the great Douglas Fairbanks than anybody. When did you first meet him?

MP:                                         I met him at Elsie Janis’s. Now you probably don’t know her either, but she was a great star in the theater. She was… well, I’d say the most successful theatrical child and when I was getting eight dollars a week, she was getting seventy dollars a week. And the Torontonians will probably recall Shea’s Theatre on…

TT:                                          Oh, yes. Yes, you may be sad to know that it’s been pulled down.

MP:                                         Well, it won’t be pulled down in my memory. I can see it now and can see Elsie, and she was called the sweetheart of the American troops. She went right up to the front to entertain them, wonderful entertainer, wonderful mimic. And I went out to her house, let’s see… it was called Philipse Manor, and they claimed that George Washington stayed there, and that was the first time I met Douglas Fairbanks. I had seen him in the theater in A Gentleman of Leisure.

TT:                                          Mmm-hmm.

MP:                                         And to tell you the truth I wasn’t impressed by him.

TT:                                          Why?

MP:                                         Well, maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, I don’t know. (Laughing)

TT:                                          (Laughing)

MP:                                         But I thought he was too exuberant.

TT:                                          That was his trademark almost, his abundance of energy.

MP:                                         Well…

TT:                                          His vitality…

MP:                                         Well, I was intolerant and maybe not in a happy mood that day, it was cold, it was November and… well, he had just come into pictures. He had been a big star in the theater. He was contemporary of Barrymore.

TT:                                          Yes.

MP:                                         Jack. He and Douglas were always together on Broadway, in different plays of course, and that was my first meeting with him. And… Elsie and he and Owen Moore started out together and they said, “You stay here, Mary, and we’ll be back.” And I said, “Oh no you don’t,” so I went after them. And I had on some beautiful new shoes that cost me fifteen dollars – well, that’s like seventy-five today, you know – and they were white kid, and Elsie called back, she said, “Don’t ruin your lovely shoes, you’d better go back to the house.” Well, I had different ideas and I started across this creek. I was walking on this log, and I got in the middle of it and of course it was a freezing cold day and I was frightened to go back or go forward and Douglas said, “Do you mind?” And he came across the log and picked me up in his arms and put me safely on the other side. I didn’t think it was romantic, I just thought it was a polite gesture. It was only after in years that I saw that that was the beginning.

TT:                                          You did get to like him?

MP:                                         Rather.

TT:                                          Yes. (Laughing)

MP:                                         (Laughing) As the English say. Oh, he was a wonderful person, you would have loved him. He was a little boy always, and he was just in life as he was on the screen, and do you know, he never, never used a net or a wire or what we call a double? Everything that you saw him do on the screen he did himself.

TT:                                          You mean he was like that around the house?

MP:                                         Oh yes. He’d have you out there on the lawn or up there, you know the water tower up there, he’d probably in the next hour have you up climbing that.

TT:                                          Yes?

MP:                                         Yes.

TT:                                          Did he never run out of energy?

MP:                                         No, never. He was just as he always was, and I’m grateful, you know, that he didn’t have a long illness. He went quickly. And I had a cousin who loved him very much and he said about Douglas, he said, “No matter how many people were in the room, when he left the room was empty.” This was after he died. And he said that he was like an arrow in full flight.

TT:                                          All the time, I suppose?

MP:                                         All the time.

TT:                                          But isn’t that very hard on the heart, that super abundance of energy?

MP:                                         Well, I would imagine so. He played as many as fifty-four holes of golf a day, and then he invented a game called “Doug” that was between badminton and tennis. The racquet was heavier than a tennis racquet or than a badminton racquet, and the bird was, the bird was heavier than the badminton.

TT:                                          I see. Well, what did he die of?

MP:                                         Heart.

TT:                                          Did he realize he had this condition?

MP:                                         No, I think he thought it was indigestion.

TT:                                          Miss Pickford, when did you and Mr. Fairbanks form your own motion picture company?

MP:                                         In 1919.

TT:                                          What was the name of it then?

MP:                                         United Artists.

TT:                                          Oh it still is?

MP:                                         Mmm-hmm.

TT:                                          Didn’t Chaplin have something to do with that as well?

MP:                                         Yes, he and D.W. Griffith and Douglas and I formed the company.

TT:                                          It seems to me that in 1919 you made a picture in which they wanted you to appear with bedbugs. I was reading an anecdote in a magazine the other day.

MP:                                         Oh, I think they’re mistaken about the bedbugs. I did appear with twelve New York sewer rats. Griffith said that I was so crazy that if he set the house on fire and put me on the roof and he said to me “jump” I would.

TT:                                          You would?

MP:                                         Yeah. You know, I’m very obedient in some respects. That rat thing was terrible. You know that the directors are typed just like actors or writers. Some of the directors have no sensitivity where women are concerned; they cannot direct a woman. Lubitsch was one of them. Ernst Lubitsch.

TT:                                          The Lubitsch touch.

MP:                                         Well, he only… he was a frustrated actor himself, and he didn’t know how to direct a woman. But Marshall Neilan was the tops to my way of thinking and Griffith. Now C.B. DeMille couldn’t direct a woman.

TT:                                          When did you first meet him?

MP:                                         I met him when I was thirteen years of age. He played my brother. There were four, supposed to be four children. It was The Warrens of Virginia, and his brother William wrote the play and David Belasco produced it. We remained good friends ever after that. I made two pictures with him, The Little American and A Romance of the Redwoods, that was in 1917.

TT:                                          I was… been wondering about this. The stars of the silent era seem so remote to us now. What were they like in behavior? Were they more flamboyant and remote than they are today, the stars of this era?

MP:                                         They were more remote, but I wouldn’t say more flamboyant.

TT:                                          We get the impression that they all lived in castles…

MP:                                         Oh no, that’s not true…

TT:                                          And that they were never seen in person.

MP:                                         That’s so… you mean, not actual castles?

TT:                                          Well, huge mansions.

MP:                                         No.

TT:                                          They lived a sort of a life of… in a never-never-land.

MP:                                         Well, that may be true. But we certainly didn’t advertise what breakfast food we had in the morning and things like that.

TT:                                          Yes, the movie stars today seem to be more businesspeople, they’re less colorful, I think. You can meet them and you’re not quite as thrilled.

MP:                                         Only because we have tremendous competition today. We had no TV, we had no radio, we didn’t have airplanes, we didn’t have long-distance phone, we didn’t have the world at our… on our breakfast tray. What’s happened yesterday in London or even this morning in London, it’s photographed and we have it in our morning paper. Well, that wasn’t so in those days. We just… we had the motion picture industry, we had the theater, and what motion pictures did to the legitimate theater, TV now, in turn, has done it to motion pictures. I, in my short life, well comparatively short life, have seen the birth and the death of motion pictures.

TT:                                          You think the motion picture has died?

MP:                                         Mmm-hmm.

TT:                                          But why should it?

MP:                                         Because of the competition. You know, you can see the old motion pictures that are just as good as some of them… and better than today. And why should people leave their house?

TT:                                          But you can see a picture so much better on a big screen in a comfortable theater than you can on a box in your living room.

MP:                                         Mmm, that’s true. But it’s very expensive, and you have to face the fact that at one time there were 17,000 theaters. I don’t know what the number is today, but… it breaks my heart to go by them and see them bowling alleys and skating rinks. Certainly the motion picture will always be there, but I believe that when paid TV comes in, and I’m sure it’ll be less expensive than going to the theater, then it’ll be the real death knell of motion pictures.

TT:                                          Getting back to the stars of the silent era, is it true that people in those times earned fabulous salaries and that there were no taxes?

MP:                                         That’s not true. I paid fifty percent of my salary and that was 1917. We went into the war, that is the Americans did, in April of 1917 and it was retroactive. My $10,000 a week has shrunk to nothing at all compared to… who was it that I heard?

TT:                                          Marlon Brando is supposed to be getting a million or something like that.

MP:                                         Was it? No, I read the other morning that he was going to get a million and ten percent of the gross.

TT:                                          That couldn’t be matched in the old days, could it?

MP:                                         No. (Laughing) And it’s impossible for people to keep money today, unless of course it’s capital gain. And that’s what you were asking me a little while ago. Well, now the actors have managers, which we didn’t have in those days, and investors, and they have to do it because the life of an actor, the average actor, is very short. And of course if he’s disfigured, if he gets… becomes ill, or if he loses an arm or a leg, or… they’re like doctors. I maintain that doctors and people who make big money for a short period of time, that should be taken into consideration.

TT:                                          Well, Miss Pickford, when did you stop making motion pictures?

MP:                                         (Laughing) I stopped in 1933.

TT:                                          Why?

MP:                                         Well, you see I was my own producer. My first independent picture was Daddy-Long-Legs. Maybe it’s my Irish blood, I don’t know, I guess English are also rebels, but I didn’t… you know, it’s very hard for actors. They… those that haven’t anything to say about the kind of roles they’re going to play and the type of picture they’re going to make, and then they die out. The producers of course can get another actor, but an actor can’t get another career. And so I wanted to make my own pictures and I did, but it was too hard for me to be a producer and an actress. You see, when everybody else went home, I had to approve of sets, costumes, sign checks, and when my mother was alive I never attended to any of the business. She passed on in 1928, and I retired five years later…. actually, about four years later because it was the beginning of 1933. It was just too much for me. You see, the average actress goes home if she’s had an emotional day. If she’s wise, she’ll just take a cup of soup or broth and go to bed at six o’clock. But there I’d be at the studio until eleven at night and back the next morning at six, and it was just… I couldn’t take it.

TT:                                          Well, let’s talk about the Mary Pickford of today. What are your activities?

MP:                                         Well, meeting charming people like yourself.

TT:                                          Thank you.

MP:                                         I have a record that I want to make for Columbia University. Well, of course there’s real estate, bonds, securities, and then there’s the civic things and then my charitable work.

TT:                                          I’ve heard a lot about your charitable work, and I was told I shouldn’t mention it to you, but I understand you do quite a lot of that.

MP:                                         Well, I don’t think I deserve any credit for that. You see, the world’s been wonderful to me – people have been wonderful to me – the least I can do it to try to pay it back in a small way, any way I can. And I love the very young and the very old. In fact, it’s awfully hard, you know, I’d like to be a Barbara Hutton or a Miss Duke. I’d like to have tremendous wealth that I could… because every, everyone that comes to you, you know, every charity deserves consideration and moral and financial support, but of course I’m relatively the poor little rich girl.

TT:                                          (Laughing) Tell us about this wonderful home you have, Pickfair. When was this built?

MP:                                         Well, I don’t know actually what year it was built. It was a shooting lodge at one time. The quail still come here.

TT:                                          Mmm-hmm.

MP:                                         And red fox… not so much today, and coyotes, and they used to come way out in the country. There was only one house between us now here, sitting looking out there at the Pacific – only one house, the Danzinger house that is now the Bel-Air Hotel. And there were no roads to the beach. You know, Sunset didn’t exist in those days. And Douglas bought it I think in 1919, and then he had, you see this wide hall here?

TT:                                          Yes.

MP:                                         This was… the door back there that leads into the service quarters, that was the front door.

TT:                                          Yeah.

MP:                                         And then he built on this rest of the house, the living room and the bedroom, that section upstairs. And then in 1932 before the Olympics, he built the guest house.

TT:                                          Well, how many rooms do you have in Pickfair now?

MP:                                         I think about thirty-eight.

TT:                                          That must take rather a large staff to maintain.

MP:                                         Nobody can afford it anymore. (Laughing) We used to have sixteen, I think we have about eight now.

TT:                                          How about the grounds? How many acres?

MP:                                         We used to have thirteen, but when they wouldn’t allow us to keep cows and horses anymore we subdivided the lower part. I think we have about four acres.

TT:                                          They are beautifully kept. You were mentioning some while ago that you might turn Pickfair into a museum.

MP:                                         That’s what I hope.

TT:                                          Is there a strong possibility of doing that?

MP:                                         Well if I may. You know, Beverly Hills is very strict. Maybe the neighbors wouldn’t like it.

TT:                                          Well, if you ever do it’ll be the most sumptuous museum I’ve ever come across because it’s so beautifully designed, and you have such a wealth of lovely things.

MP:                                         Well, that’s nice.

TT:                                          Books and paintings and china ware… These paintings on the wall of this room, these are Rodin originals, are they?

MP:                                         They are, yes.

TT:                                          Where did you acquire those?

MP:                                         I got those in New York. It was a student of Rodin and he had, I think originally he had something like forty, and I was able to get about twenty-eight of them.

TT:                                          What other treasures do you have that are outstanding?

MP:                                         Well, you can see the cabinet there.

TT:                                          Yes.

MP:                                         Rose quartz, jade, Peking glass, and ivory, and then I have some very rare books, and of course, the furniture. I have in the dining room original Adam chairs. I shouldn’t own them because they’re so delicate, and when I see some of my guests teetering on them, I nearly faint.

TT:                                          (Laughing) The thing that interested me most about your house is the room downstairs, the Western room. Now, someone was telling me that the bar is from the real Wild West, is that true?

MP:                                         Well, it came around the horn in 19… let’s see, in 1849.

TT:                                          1849?

MP:                                         Mmm-hmm, the Gold Rush, and it’s one solid piece of mahogany. And the story goes that when it was in Placer, California, the judge, if he got thirsty, they’d go down and continue the trial at the bar.

TT:                                          (Laughing) Do you ever use that room for anything other than a showpiece?

MP:                                         Oh yes, we start parties off there, you know and people, if they come in and they’re feeling very, you know, sort of dressed up, in ten minutes, you know, everybody’s having a happy time. You know, it’s a playroom.

TT:                                          Yes, it has relics from the Wild West. I was wondering if Mr. Fairbanks’ things were down there, a gun belt and a hat and chaps and a whip and things?

MP:                                         Yes, those are his. And the Remingtons.

TT:                                          The original Remington paintings. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. They’re beautiful.

MP:                                         They were originally, they were illustrating I think it was Cosmopolitan stories and I… of course, those are going to a museum too if I don’t turn… if I’m not able to turn this into a museum. And you know I want the proceeds to go to the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

TT:                                          Well, I think we should let you go now because we’ve taken up so much of your time.

MP:                                         No, I’m so happy, you know, to meet Canadians and I hope that you will convey to the Torontonians my fond memories, my affection for them. I’m very, very proud of being a Canadian, and when I’ve been asked “Which country do you prefer?” I say, “Well, I don’t know,” I say. “England is my grandmother, Toronto, Canada is my mother, and the United States is my husband.” So give them my love.

TT:                                          I will do that, and we’re very proud of you.




Mary Pickford / Jack Linkletter Audio Interview

This interview with Mary Pickford was conducted by Art Linkletter’s son Jack Linkletter at the world premiere of the John Wayne film Hatari! at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on June 19th, 1962. Here, Mary discusses a few of the many charities that were important to her, and reminisces about her early life and movie career. Special thanks to Phil Gries at Archival Television Audio, Inc. for this historical treasure.

Read Transcript »

JACK:                                     Hi, you are attending a Hollywood premiere and this is Jack Linkletter at the Egyptian Theatre for the glittering opening of Howard Hawks’ Paramount Production Hatari! starring John Wayne. This is a charity event headed by this great lady of motion pictures, Mary Pickford. And I have a date with her in the lobby for one of her rare television interviews. Ms. Pickford began her theatrical career at the age of five in Toronto, Canada. In 1909 she made her screen debut as a bit player. Known as America’s Sweetheart, she skyrocketed into stardom in such classics as Pollyanna, Little Lord Fauntleroy and Coquette. And tomorrow at the airport we will meet co-stars Red Buttons, Elsa Martinelli and Bruce Cabot and the star who is arriving right now is Mr. John Wayne himself. We will be back with Mary Pickford in just one minute.

We are in the lobby of the Egyptian Theatre and we are at the latest Paramount picture premiere of Hatari!, Howard Hawks’ motion picture and John Wayne starring. Both of which are superfluous at this moment because I am with one of the sweetest and greatest ladies in motion pictures and I am talking about Mary Pickford. And while you are not in Hatari! fighting rhinoceros or anything of that nature I do want to talk to you…one because of your tremendous background in show business and second because you are related to this picture in many ways. In fact she was being very sweet and just a minute ago was saying, you know I never do interviews. I don’t want to do interviews. I don’t like to do interviews but I am doing it because what you are going to talk to me about. And that is that Mary Pickford is the Honorary Chairman of the Hollywood People for Africa.

MARY:                                    Friends of Africa.

JACK:                                     Now can you tell us a little bit what this committee does?

MARY:                                    Well it’s Meals for Millions and also medical supplies. And the medical supplies go through this group that distributes them in Africa. And you probably know that the conditions over there are very bad. My husband Buddy Rogers and I were there a year ago. We were in Kenya and you cannot imagine the poverty and the misery of the people in Africa. And so I think it is a great opportunity for all of us, myself included, to be here tonight.

JACK:                                     Now this, I should add, is a charity premiere of this motion picture and that the people coming here, everything is going to this foundation.

MARY:                                    Directly, yes.

JACK:                                     And it is supported by Hollywood show business people?

MARY:                                    Well yes, partially so. It is free contributions, you know.

JACK:                                     With everybody.

MARY:                                    Well anybody who wishes to have a heart big enough to help these poor little starving, neglected babies.

JACK:                                     When did you first become aware of this…on your trip to Africa, was that….?

MARY:                                    Well I was invited to join and this particular group here tonight was formed at our house at Pickfair.

JACK:                                     Oh, really!

MARY:                                    Yes.

JACK:                                     Well the wonderful house of Pickfair, up on the hill. I know that there are many things that you have very strong feelings about. Another one is that I know that you have been disturbed over this country’s treatment of elderly people and you want a lot of changes in this area. What are some of these?

MARY:                                    Well you know I look upon elderly people as old babies.

JACK:                                     Old babies?

MARY:                                    Yes. Because the young ones have an opportunity in the future. They can become the president of the United States. Most elderly people….

JACK:                                     Especially the young ones. (laughter)

MARY:                                    Well that is what I mean. The young babies but the old babies their lives are over and a lot of them are poor and forgotten because… well their family or their friends have died. They may have been frugal and put their money away in their youth and middle age for a rainy day and along comes inflation and the shrinking dollar and where are they?

JACK:                                     And what are you suggesting?

MARY:                                    Well I am for… I belong to that group of people for the senior citizens. We don’t call them elderly or old anymore you know. They are senior citizens. I am for the ones with inadequate income. Now take Bunker Hill. Our Bunker Hill, they condemned those houses where the rents were reasonable. Those elderly people had no place to go because the rents in the newer places had blown up out of all reason. Now I am for those people. I can understand why the people that defeated, I mean the politicians who defeated Proposition 4, which was the housing for the inadequate income group, the elderly. They claimed that the people from all over the nation, the elderly, would pour in here. Well I can see why they had something there. But they could put teeth in this law to protect us. You know I am for the taxpayers all over the United States.

JACK:                                     Well you have been one and a big one from awhile back.

MARY:                                    I try not to think about that.

JACK:                                     It was a wonderful story and I don’t know whether I just heard it or whether it is true or not but you at one time adopted an 82-year-old man. Now is that true?

MARY:                                    Yes it’s true.

JACK:                                     An 82-year-old baby as you would call him.

MARY:                                    Yes.

JACK:                                     And what prompted this?

MARY:                                    Well his family had neglected him and he was in a home here and he was lonely and he heard me state that this was a group of women. I said I don’t think it is enough to give them a bed for sleeping and food and to supply a church. They need love. They need attention. And I think we should take them out for a ride in our car. We should remember their birthdays and the holidays and send them postal cards when we go away. So when I came out of the meeting room he said would you adopt me? So I said yes I will.

JACK:                                     Proving that you practice what you preach.

MARY:                                    Well I would go and take him out and we would discuss old things of old world. He was from Russia and so we talked about… you know he was a very wise man and I learned much from him.

JACK:                                     I am going to have stop for just one minute. Then I would like to talk and make me a little wiser by telling me a little bit about your early career and things I know that people would be fascinated…

MARY:                                    You are so young, are you interested in that?

JACK:                                     I am fascinated. We are at the Egyptian Theatre for the premiere of Hatari! and inside the theater of this charity premiere are hundreds of people who are donating to the group that Mary Pickford is the honorary chairman of and that is the Hollywood Friends for Africa. We talked about that and right now I would like to talk about your early, early life. Because this is of course part of Hollywood’s lore. As I remember reading was that your father died when you were very young. I think it was four.

MARY:                                    That’s right.

JACK:                                     But what else can you tell us of your early childhood?

MARY:                                    Well we didn’t have much money. In fact we didn’t have any but I had a wonderful mother and I had a sister Lottie and I had a brother….

JACK:                                     A brother by my name.

MARY:                                    Jack.

JACK:                                     Jack, that’s right.

MARY:                                    And we had lots of fun. And I was saying today when I look at the beautiful cars I remember the days when I walked miles to save five cents. I am not going to forget those days either.

JACK:                                     And going way back to those days what was it… do you remember what age you first made a professional appearance?

MARY:                                    Five.

JACK:                                     Five and do you remember where?

MARY:                                    Yes. Toronto, Canada.

JACK:                                     And what was it?

MARY:                                    It was called The Silver King and I played a nasty little girl.

JACK:                                     A nasty little girl.

MARY:                                    Oh a mean little girl!

JACK:                                     A bad seed.

MARY:                                    Oh absolutely!

JACK:                                     And now let me jump up to your Academy Award which was Coquette, which was fantastic. What in looking back at you career was some of your other favorite roles?

MARY:                                    Oh I had several. I loved Tess of the Storm Country. I think she was my favorite. Then there was Daddy-Long-Legs, The Poor Little Rich Girl and let’s see what else, Lord Fauntleroy. Right, the only time I played a boy. I think it was funny…..

JACK:                                     You couldn’t get away with that very often.

MARY:                                    I did too! Well not often.

JACK:                                     Not very often.

MARY:                                    I shouldn’t say it but I don’t see any reason for it anyhow. I never understood why a woman should have to play Chanticleer, but I weakened and I played the mother in….

JACK:                                     You did well.

MARY:                                    Well, I hope so. I played the mother and the son.

JACK:                                     By the way talking about playing boys and you, you had the long curls. When did you cut those off?

MARY:                                    Right before Coquette.

JACK:                                     Right before….

MARY:                                    Because I was tired of playing little girls and I couldn’t go on until I was 90 playing little girls. You know so I had to….

JACK:                                     I don’t know, maybe you could. (laughter) In your early films you were known as just very simply as Little Mary. Producers were reluctant, weren’t they, in those days to…

MARY:                                    They didn’t want us to become spoiled you see so they gave us fictitious names. I was….

JACK:                                     Why didn’t they want you to be so… what do you mean spoiled?

MARY:                                    Well they thought that we would become self-important and that we would want a raise in salary so they called me Dorothy Nicholson in England. The English gave me that name. So when the mail came to the Biograph Company they just destroyed it. And then I left them and went with, which is now Universal International. Then they started advertising me as Little Mary. So that was the first time.

JACK:                                     Boy, they’ve uh, I guess they made a mistake by giving the people the names and publicizing them because look what stars are doing today.

MARY:                                    Don’t blame that on me. (laughter)

JACK:                                     No, no, no, not at all but do you think this is threatening our industry? Look at our papers and our magazines they are full of the salary demands and the bad behavior of our top stars.

MARY:                                    I am not one to criticize but I wonder, I question myself why the people, why the stars want a million dollars when they can’t keep it. They are in the 93% bracket. Now will you answer me. You are young and smart, why do they want to do it?

JACK:                                     Well I guess because that is the only way they can get $100,000.00. (laughter)

MARY:                                    No, they don’t even get that. They get $90,000.00.

JACK:                                     $90,000.00

MARY:                                    Well why can’t they give the poor producer a break instead of breaking his back?

JACK:                                     Very good point.

MARY:                                    I am not for that.

JACK:                                     I am not going to argue the point because I yet have there is get my first million dollar picture. I am waiting though. Patiently.

MARY:                                    Well you just keep on. (laughter) You’ll get it.

JACK:                                     The United States got very excited a while back when you announced that you were going to come out of retirement to do a motion picture, The Librarian, I think it was with Stanley Kramer and then you said no.

MARY:                                    I said no.

JACK:                                     Why did you change your mind?

MARY:                                    It was controversial. I only said I would do it because I was so fond of him and I think he is, if not the most brilliant producer of today, but one of them anyhow.

JACK:                                     Of course everything he does is controversial so why would you consider it in the first place?

MARY:                                    Well, I didn’t retire that long ago to come back and make trouble for myself. You know when my household and my family disagreed on it and said that a comment…

JACK:                                     Was it about burning of the books, wasn’t it? The Librarian.

MARY:                                    Burning of a Communistic book.

JACK:                                     Right.

MARY:                                    And uh, right after that there was quite a to-do and I refused to do it. That our President Eisenhower, they were burning books and he was against it. But, I don’t think it is my prerogative or any entertainers to preach.

JACK:                                     So you are against these movies with messages?

MARY:                                    Oh, people can read a book if they want to or listen to the radio or look at television but when they pay their good dollars to go in and see a movie they want to be entertained. And I have never done anything… I’ve never preached. I am not… important enough to do that.

JACK:                                     You believe that when someone goes to a movie it should be for sheer entertainment.

MARY:                                    Absolutely. And if they get a message out of it, well and good, but not to deliberately go out to teach. We are not teachers. We are entertainers. And Stanley Kramer said I am surprised at you. He said I thought you were a courageous individual. He said there you were in the ring and the bell rang and you wouldn’t come out of your corner. Well that hurt my feelings. But I did the right thing. I didn’t like the picture when I saw it.

JACK:                                     And then you say you are an entertainer not a preacher and yet you certainly back things with all of your conviction like we have talked about for elderly and for Africans…

MARY:                                    That’s different. Now that is my…

JACK:                                     You are not doing it on the screen?

MARY:                                    No, that is my personal private life. Not my professional life.

JACK:                                     This is a distinction.

MARY:                                    I am retired now and if I have a conviction and if I think you are doing something you shouldn’t do I will say now look, Jack, I think you are mistaken. And I will come to you as your friend and say you can take it or leave it but I think you are making a mistake. You would do the same with me.

JACK:                                     I hope so. You know you have some wonderful opinions about things and one thing I would like to bring up and see what your reaction is to it today. About forty years ago I guess it was, if I know my history correctly you and Chaplin and Fairbanks and Griffith, D.W. Griffith, organized the studio called United Artists.

MARY:                                    No, it was a releasing corporation. It was sort of an agency.

JACK:                                     That became United Artists right?

MARY:                                    No, it was always United Artists in the beginning. But you see each one of us financed our own pictures and produced them.

JACK:                                     Sort of an amalgamation then?

MARY:                                    Nobody had anything to say. I couldn’t say anything about the others, the three men. I couldn’t tell them what to do or what not to do.

JACK:                                     There was a lot said about the fact that you people did this. In fact one critic very strongly said now they… you know what it is… the asylum is now in the hands of the inmates.

MARY:                                    No he said worse than that. He said maniacs.

JACK:                                     Oh did he? (laughter)

MARY:                                    Yes.

JACK:                                     I am softening it. But now this is being said about stars today who are going into production and doing their own movies now. Looking back at it with history in mind, do you agree with this statement?

MARY:                                    In certain instances yes.

JACK:                                     Of stars taking over the production of…

MARY:                                    I think so. But on the other hand when studios say you are going to play that type of picture, Mary, and I say I will not play a lady of the evening. They say all right we will suspend you. You go off salary. I’d say all right I am not going to do a picture that I think is questionable morally. I won’t do it. So I have a right to say it is my life, my career and I don’t think the studio has a right to do that and so therefore we formed our own companies so we could make the kind of pictures we wanted to make. Good bad or indifferent. Successful or failures.

JACK:                                     You were putting your own career on the block?

MARY:                                    I will… my career and my own money. I wasn’t asking anybody else to… and another thing speaking of money the producer shared dollar for dollar with me. I got the money first and he got is secondly and then we split 50-50. Now I think that is fair.

JACK:                                     That’s interesting. Then there are a lot of things that have happened to stars and of course the days when you were married to Douglas Fairbanks and an invitation to your Pickfair home was the big gala thing in Hollywood and society… in the industry today there is really no one who has reached this type of position of glamour and so forth. Now do you feel that this has hurt motion pictures?

MARY:                                    No. Nothing hurts a good picture.

JACK:                                     I am talking about the stars. Are the stars today… I’m saying, and you correct me if you think I am wrong, that there isn’t the aura about stars today that there was about you and the big stars?

MARY:                                    Well, you see in the old… in those days we didn’t have the television. We didn’t have radio. We didn’t have airplanes. We didn’t have the sputniks. We didn’t have the picture that happens tonight in London and you see it in tomorrow’s paper. On the wires. Well the stars of today have too much competition. We didn’t have that competition. We had the entertainment world right in our hands like that. But it behooved us to make good pictures. Three bad pictures like three strikes and you are out.

JACK:                                     That’s true, very true. But yet the stars today are trying to put an image across that they are like the person next door where in your day….

MARY:                                    I don’t think that’s right.

JACK:                                     You are against that.

MARY:                                    Yes.

JACK:                                     That’s what I thought…

MARY:                                    And I don’t think that it is the public’s affair or particularly interested what kind of breakfast would they eat.

JACK:                                     Well now come on, you are going to hurt our show because a lot of…

MARY:                                    Well that’s all right. (laughter)

JACK:                                     You say what you believe and that is true.

MARY:                                    Well I mean I don’t think that… I think that there ought to be a little secrecy. A little curtain in front of the people, of the actors. I don’t think they should be seen in public in too brief costume. You know I am old-fashioned. And with bare feet and all of that. I don’t like that.

JACK:                                     Well I want to thank you very much for just letting us have a little peek behind your curtain because you are a wonderful woman.

MARY:                                    Don’t you think I am such a terrible prude, but I think people are disappointed when they love a star, not to see her at her best.

JACK:                                     Well you are at your best and I thank you for being your best with us.

MARY:                                    You are kind of cute yourself, Jack.

JACK:                                     Oh cut it out. My wife is very jealous. We thank you and we will pause and be back in one minute.

Collector’s Choice presents 453 hours of television programming, audio recorded from live, taped and filmed television broadcasts of the 1960s. Many of these 858 different programs audio taped when originally telecast are lost or unattainable and only the audio portion remains from this bygone era, the silver age of television.” This interview with Mary Pickford is from the “Here’s Hollywood” series and was audio taped when it originally aired in New York on WNBC, channel 4. July 23, 1962