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W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library Manuscript Collections

Guide to the Mary Pickford Letter MSS.3402

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Publication:

University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35487-0266
205.348.0500
archives@ua.edu

May 2011

Creation:

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2011-05-20T11:28-0500

Language Usage:

English

Description Rules:

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Collection Title:

Mary Pickford Letter

Unit ID:

MSS.3402

Repository:

University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Quantity:

0.1 Linear feet

Dates:

between 1920 and 1936

Abstract:

Framed, undated letter from Mary Pickford to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

Access Restrictions:

None

Acquisition Information:

Gift of Wade Hall, 2006

Preferred Citation:

Mary Pickford Letter, W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Processing Information:

Processed by

Martha Bace, 2011

Scope and Contents note

The collection contains a framed, undated letter from Mary Pickford to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. She refers to him as "the very brave turkey hunter" and signs it as "Your funny friend." According to an unsigned note included in the frame, the note was found at Pickfair, Pickford's and Douglas' estate in the Los Angeles area, in 1980.

Biographical/Historical note

Mary Pickford (born Gladys Marie Smith) was born in Toronto, Canada, on 8 April 1892, the oldest of the three children of John Charles Smith and Charlotte Hennessy. She began acting at the age of seven in Toronto's Princess Theatre stock company productions of The Silver King and as "Little Eva" in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

In April 1909, after several years of stage acting in Toronto, on Broadway, and across the United States, Pickford had a screen test for a role in the Biograph Company's production of Pippa Passes. She did not get the part, but the director, D. W. Griffith, was immediately taken with her; her film career was launched. In the days when screen actors were paid about $5 a day, Pickford earned $10 a day. By 1916, she had formed her own production company. In doing this, she had a voice in selecting what films she would star in as well as being able to choose her own directors.

Pickford was married three times. First, to Owen Moore in January 1911. They had numerous marital problems and after living apart for several years, they divorced on 2 March 1920. Twenty-six days later, she married Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., with whom she had been secretly involved with since 1918. With the dawn of the "talkies," both Pickford's and Fairbanks' film careers began to founder, and when Fairbanks' extramarital affair became public, they separated in 1933. They divorced in January 1936. In June 1937, Pickford married actor and band leader Charles "Buddy" Rogers. Pickford never had children of her own, but she and Rogers adopted two children in the 1940s.

Pickford was instrumental in reshaping the film industry from its original concept of "canned theatre" (i.e., reproducing Broadway plays for a mass audience) to focusing instead on the actors and material that were uniquely suited to film. She became her own producer and oversaw every aspect of the making of her films. In 1919, she co-founded United Artists (UA) with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks. The combination of producer and co-founder made Pickford the most powerful woman who ever worked in Hollywood. She retired from acting in 1933 but continued to produce films for UA. She and Chaplin remained partners in the company until the mid-1950s when they both retired. Pickford sold her remaining shares in UA for three million dollars.

Pickford's mother died in March 1928 of breast cancer, followed by her brother in 1933 and sister in 1936. Both Pickford's first and second husbands, Owen Moore and Douglas Fairbanks, died in 1939. Pickford and Rogers were married for over 40 years until her death from a cerebral hemorrhage on 29 May 1979 at the age of 87.

Source: Wikipedia contributors, "Mary Pickford," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mary_Pickford&oldid=429262735 (accessed May 20, 2011).

Letter Box SC0073 Oversize Folder 3402.01