American Experience film about Mary Pickford

Yesterday I watched one of the episodes from that great PBS series, American Experience, about Mary Pickford. Using phrases like “the first modern celebrity,” “the first superstar,” and “the woman who invented film acting,” the narrators told about the life of America’s Sweetheart and her contributions to acting, to filmmaking, and to the film production business. She “had a man’s brain,” said Charlie Chaplin once–it was meant as a compliment, since everyone knew women had no head for business.This information was all familiar to me. What the episode emphasized that I had never considered was that Pickford was also the “first to pay the price” for stardom. 

Douglas Fairbanks had to rescue his wife on more than one occasion, carrying her above the frenzied mobs that greeted their ships and trains when they traveled.

When Mary Pickford reluctantly began acting in short silent films, film acting was not respectable. It has often been said that actresses were considered a short step above prostitutes. She made acting respectable, and then glamorous. Before Mary Pickford, there had been no such thing as a superstar, and she was unprepared for the loss of privacy, the mobs tearing at her clothing and hair when she traveled, and the pressures that turned her to alcohol and made her a hermit in her own home for the last decades of her life. 

I acquired this episode through Netflix, with their DVD plan; it is not available if you subscribe to their streaming option. Someone told me it was also on Youtube. 

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Published in: on November 12, 2017 at 8:44 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great post Mary. I do receive Netflix DVDs and will check this one out. Very interesting.

  2. Mary, You already know about my mother’s vaudeville career. She also appeared in the Mary Pickford silent film “Poor Little Rich Girl” (1917).

    • Oh, it’s on Youtube, so I can watch it any time. Where does your mother come in?


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