An Interview with Mary Pickford at Pickfair

My-Best-Girl_edited-1

Mary Pickford (1892-1979) was a multi-talented film star and producer, a founding partner of United Artists in 1919, and a co-founder of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927. For all of that, she was a wonderfully unassuming person and everyone who ever met her instantly liked her. On May 25, 1959, Mary gave this wide-ranging interview at her legendary home, Pickfair, located near Los Angeles. She discussed her early life and family in Toronto, her start in films, and her impressions of many of the greats she worked with including D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and others. Click below to spend 45 minutes with one of the most accomplished women of the 20th century:

Mary began appearing in films in 1909 and quite a number of her early films survive. Below, a still from ESMERALDA (1915), one of the lost ones:
Pickford Esmeralda_edited-Final_Flat_edited-1

Mary’s younger brother Jack became a silent screen star in his own right but his troubled private life was riddled with substance abuse and he would not fulfill his early potential. Mary helped Jack in every way she could:
The-Little-Shepherd-of-Kingdom-Come

Pickford was tireless in her fundraising efforts to sell war bonds during America’s involvement in the First World War. This extended to her making propaganda films to support the war effort such as this 1918 release:
Johanna-Enlists

Mary speaks about director Cecil B. DeMille in our interview. She made two films for him, THE LITTLE AMERICAN and A ROMANCE OF THE REDWOODS (both 1917), but the collaboration was not a happy one:
A-Romance-of-the-Redwoods

Despite widespread resentment against Germany and Germans after the First World War, Mary brought famed German director Ernst Lubitsch to Hollywood to direct her in his first American film. But Mary was used to directing her director by then and the film, ROSITA (1923), was an unhappy experience as she observes in the interview:
Rosita

ROSITA was a departure from Mary’s screen character and she went further in the plush costume drama, DOROTHY VERNON OF HADDON HALL (1924), based on a popular novel of the time:
Dorothy-Vernon-of-Haddon-Hall

The arrival of sound films in the late 1920s shook the status quo of the studios but Mary won the Best Actress Academy Award for her first talkie and most financially successful film, COQUETTE (1929):
Pickford Coquette

Mary co-starred with her husband Doug Fairbanks Sr. for his talkie debut in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1929):
Taming of the Shrew Final

Mary pursued numerous projects during the 1930s including radio broadcasting. Here she runs through the script with bandleader Al Lyon, director of the Coconut Grove Orchestra, for the debut of Mary’s show, Parties At Pickfair, on February 9, 1936:
Radio021 Final_edited-1 - Copy

Mary was able to obtain top film stars for her show including Errol Flynn:
Radio012 Final_edited-1

Mary Pickford received a second, special Academy Award in 1976, which was presented to her at Pickfair. She passed away in 1979 and was survived by her third husband, actor and bandleader Charles “Buddy” Rogers, whom she married in 1937 following her divorce from Fairbanks. Despite her plans for turning Pickfair into a museum as she discusses in the interview, after her death it was eventually sold to Pia Zadora in 1988, who had it torn down claiming termite infestation. Years later, Zadora stated that Pickfair wasn’t razed due to termites, but because of ghosts.

(Pickford Interview courtesy of the Internet Archives at https://archive.org)

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