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.
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.
The Foundation has disbursed $18 million for charitable purposes and maintains $8 million in endowments at twenty universities and colleges.
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 and continues to work with them on specific projects. Mary was also a supporter of the Jewish Home for the Aging and over the years, the Foundation has donated an additional $700,000.
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 initiates and co-manages preservation partnerships with film archives worldwide, implements educational outreach programs in universities nationwide, and works to bring restored films to new audiences in theaters throughout the world. The Foundation also supported the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences planned museum and 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 staff and other assets to make social change. For example, the Foundation initiated, funds and manages the Arts Consortium LA and has funded and helped organize a special study of the history of the Motion Picture Television Fund. The Foundation also financially supports and directs numerous students and other young composers and musicians in the creation of new and modern scores for silent film.
Elaina Friedrichsen, Director of Archive and Legacy, Mary Pickford Foundation & Head of Production, Mary Pickford Company
Elaina oversees all archival holdings, both digital and physical elements; restoration and preservation projects and production work and she produces the scores for the silent film releases. She manages all posts for social media, the foundation’s web site, and handles all licensing and programming for the Mary Pickford Foundation.
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 Mary Pickford Foundation as manager of their library from 1996 to 2001. She produced, co-wrote and edited documentaries for Turner Classic Movies including Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu, Clara Bow: Discovering the ‘It’ Girl, that won the gold Telly Award in 2000, In Mary’s Shadow: The Story of Jack Pickford, and Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies, which won an Aurora Award in 2002, and Rita, on Rita Hayworth. In 2006, she produced, directed, and edited Gangland: Bullets Over Hollywood for Starz Encore Entertainment in 2006, and in 2008, she produced, directed, and edited a documentary on early film censorship, Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema, for Playboy Entertainment, Inc.
Aubrey Shepherd, Assistant Director, Mary Pickford Foundation & Production Manager, Mary Pickford Company
Aubrey works closely with Elaina to coordinate the recording of the scores for Mary Pickford’s silents films at Savannah Studios. She handles the social media accounts, assists with website additions, and archiving materials, organizing both the digital and physical elements.
Aubrey is part of the production team for the Mary Pickford Company. She handles all aspects of pre-production and production for the restoration projects, assisting with preparation of titles for release.