Mary Pickford and the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress (LoC) sought a high-profile donor in Mary Pickford for its fledgling Motion Picture Division. Archibald MacLeish, the Librarian of Congress, formally approached Pickford by letter with a request for her film collection in 1943, to which Pickford consented.  In 1946, the LoC received the Pickford Collection: 42 crates containing over 1,000 reels of nitrate film.

The relationship between Pickford and the LoC continued with the American Film Institute (AFI) acquisition of the original camera negatives of nearly fifty Pickford Biographs in 1970, as well as the Mary Pickford Company’s request for LoC to repatriate a print of Cinderella (1914) from the Nederlands Filmmuseum. The LoC’s role in the preservation of Pickford’s work continued after her death with film deposits in 1981 and 1995. The outcome of this preservation has been the restoration of such key Pickford titles as Coquette (1929) and Sparrows (1926).

The Mary Pickford Foundation donated $500,000 to the LoC in 1982 to fund a decade of programming at the LoC’s new 64-seat cinema in the James Madison Memorial Building. The cinema, called The Mary Pickford Theater, opened in 1983 and is a fitting tribute to the woman whose legacy to the LoC was described by Daniel J. Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, as “the most important gift to [its] film collection from any individual.”

The Mary Pickford Foundation and the Library of Congress are now partnering to digitally preserve and master a number of Mary Pickford’s films, utilizing elements housed both at the Mary Pickford collection at the Library of Congress, and at the Mary Pickford Foundation’s collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive at the Packard Humanities Institute.

Using only the most recently restored and highest quality film elements, seven selected titles will be scanned in 2K and 4K by the Library of Congress digital team. Films chosen for scanning are Cinderella, Rags, Pride of the Clan, Poor Little Rich Girl, M’liss and Heart o’ the Hills, along with one Jack Pickford film. The Mary Pickford Foundation will then complete all of the digital work to master these titles for release.

Johanna Enlists and Tess of the Storm Country ’22 will be scanned in 2K High Definition, with all digital work to be completed by the Library of Congress’s digital team in cooperation with MPF.

MPF will finalize the work on all titles, and will produce original, modern scores to be synced to the films for worldwide distribution. All meta-data will be stored at the Library of Congress facility in Culpepper, Virginia.

The Library of Congress will also digitally preserve and master two titles produced by Mary Pickford; Lady of the Pavements and Drums of Love, both directed by D.W. Griffith.

The Library of Congress will also be upgrading and preserving selected film elements from the Mary Pickford Foundation’s collection.