Born Gladys Louise Smith, Mary Pickford was more than a pretty face; this lady had moxie. After much disappointment while acting with her family she gave herself one last chance to make it in the business and landed a role in a Broadway play where she acted alongside legendary director, Cecil B. DeMille. Early on Pickford began making moves unheard of in the film industry. She demanded a salary twice that of other actors and made herself in demand by landing as many roles as possible. While actresses competed for roles and clawed their way to the top, Pickford was responsible for helping to forward the careers of several prominent actresses including Dorothy and Lillian Gish.
Mary Pickford was the hardest working woman in showbiz in the early 1900's and rivaled only by her friend, Charlie Chaplin in popularity. Her beauty and creativity was matched only by her business savvy. Long before stars were collecting points and garnering salaries in the millions, Pickford had the good sense to ask for raises based on the profitability of her films. In 1916 Pickford staged a major coup by demanding and receiving full authority over all films she starred in, and a salary of $10,000 per week from Adolph Zukor of Famous Players In Famous Plays (Paramount). In 1919, Pickford, Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks launched United Artists. The newly formed studio championed an independent spirit that was unknown in the film industry.
Pickford's life wasn't without controversy and great adventures. She was married three times and counted screen legend Douglas Fairbanks as one of her husbands. She was badly trampled by rabid fans while on her honeymoon with Fairbanks and visits to her Beverly Hills mansion were coveted by foreign dignitaries visiting the White House. Mary Pickford was also one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the creators of the Academy Awards. She won an Oscar for the film Coquette and was given a lifetime achievement award in 1976 by the Academy. Actresses turned producers and directors such as Drew Barrymore (Flower Films) and Penny Marshall (Awakenings) continue to carry the torch Mary Pickford lit almost 100 years ago.
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