This week (January 7-13) in Hollywood history – Mary Pickford married Owen Moore (January 7, 1911); William Randolph Hearst bans all advertising for Citizen Kane (January 8, 1941); Arthur Lake died (January 9, 1987); Ray Bolger was born (January 10, 1904); Ava Gardner married Mickey Rooney (January 10, 1942); Charlie Chaplin’s assets were frozen during bitter divorce from Lita Grey (January 11, 1927); Luise Rainer was born (January 12, 1910).
Highlighted Story of the Week -
On January 7, 1911, silent film icon Mary Pickford, married fellow actor Owen Moore. Known as “America’s Sweetheart,” Pickford was the first true movie star. Before Pickford, movie studios avoided identifying individual actors by name, for fear they would demand higher wages. Pickford was born Gladys Smith on April 8, 1892 in Toronto, Canada. Her father, a laborer, was killed in a work-related accident when she was five. She helped support her mother and two younger siblings with her vaudeville act as “Baby Gladys.” At age 14, she won a lead role on Broadway and adopted her stage name, Mary Pickford. Two years later, she signed with Biograph Pictures for $40 a week.
Pickford appeared in many silent films, starting with The Violin Maker of Cremona, Her First Biscuits, and more than a dozen other films in 1909, working at a similar clip over the next few years. Pickford’s golden curls soon won attention from movie audiences, even though they didn’t know the actress’s name. A shrewd negotiator, Pickford hopped from studio to studio, boosting her salary each time, and was soon billed by name. At age 18, she married Moore, her first husband. By 1912, she was earning $500 a week at Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players Company. Four years later, her salary had grown to $10,000 a week, with a $300,000 bonus, plus her own production company, The Mary Pickford Co. Pickford exercised veto power over her films and had her pick of scripts, directors, and co-stars. She typically played young, innocent girls but occasionally branched out: In 1929, she shaved her trademark curls and played a flapper in the talkie Coquette, for which she won an Oscar.
Pickford divorced Moore in 1920 over his alleged alcoholism and, just three weeks later, married Hollywood star Douglas Fairbanks. Fairbanks had been her partner, along with Charlie Chaplin and director D.W. Griffith in United Artists Corp. since the previous year. As a wedding present for Pickford, Fairbanks bought an estate boasting 22 rooms on 18 acres and Beverly Hills’ first swimming pool. The couple dubbed the property “Pickfair.” Pickford retired from acting in 1933, but continued to be a powerful movie producer and influential Hollywood force for many years. She and Fairbanks divorced in 1936, and she married actor Charles “Buddy” Rogers the following year. She remained a partner in United Artists until 1953. In 1975, she received a special Oscar for her contributions to American film. She died on May 29, 1979 in Santa Monica, California from a stroke and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.
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