Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford - Hollywood's first Superstar.

A Word Or Two With Mary Pickford – 1953 – Past Daily Weekend Pop Chronicles

Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford – Hollywood’s first Superstar.

Tex McRary Interviews Mary Pickford – NBC Radio – WNBC, New York – June 15, 1953 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Unless you’re a fan of early American Cinema – especially cinema during the Silent era, you most likely have no idea who Mary Pickford is. Safe to say, Mary Pickford could probably be considered one of the first legends of Hollywood, and certainly one of its first Superstars. Dubbed America’s Sweetheart, Pickford made over 200 films, 150 of them short films during her career. She co-founded United Artists (UA) with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and her soon-to-be husband, Douglas Fairbanks.

Pickford starred in 52 features throughout her career. On June 24, 1916, Pickford signed a new contract with Adolf Zukor that granted her full authority over production of the films in which she starred, and a record-breaking salary of $10,000 a week. In addition, Pickford’s compensation was half of a film’s profits, with a guarantee of $1,040,000 (US$19,600,000 in 2022), making her the first actress to sign a million dollar contract. She also became vice-president of Pickford Film Corporation.

Occasionally, she played a child, in films such as The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), Daddy-Long-Legs (1919), and Pollyanna (1920). Pickford’s fans were devoted to these “little girl” roles, but they were not typical of her career. Due to her lack of a normal childhood, she enjoyed making these pictures. Given how small she was at under five feet, and her naturalistic acting abilities, she was very successful in these roles. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., when he first met her in person as a boy, assumed she was a new playmate for him, and asked her to come and play trains with him, which she obligingly did.

In August 1918, Pickford’s contract expired and, when refusing Zukor’s terms for a renewal, she was offered $250,000 to leave the motion picture business. She declined, and went to First National Pictures, which agreed to her terms. Through United Artists, Pickford continued to produce and perform in her own movies; she could also distribute them as she chose. In 1920, Pickford’s film Pollyanna grossed around $1,100,000. The following year, Pickford’s film Little Lord Fauntleroy was also a success, and in 1923, Rosita grossed over $1,000,000 as well. During this period, she also made Little Annie Rooney (1925), another film in which Pickford played a child, Sparrows (1926), which blended the Dickensian with newly minted German expressionist style, and My Best Girl (1927), a romantic comedy featuring her future husband Charles “Buddy” Rogers.

The arrival of sound was her undoing. Pickford underestimated the value of adding sound to movies, claiming that “adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo”.

She retired from film acting in 1933 following three costly failures with her last film appearance being Secrets. She appeared on stage in Chicago in 1934 in the play The Church Mouse and went on tour in 1935, starting in Seattle with the stage version of Coquette. She also appeared in a season of radio plays for NBC in 1935 and CBS in 1936. In 1936 she became vice-president of United Artists and continued to produce films for others, including One Rainy Afternoon (1936), The Gay Desperado (1936), Sleep, My Love (1948; with Claudette Colbert), and Love Happy (1949), with the Marx Brothers.

On May 29, 1979, Pickford died at a Santa Monica, California, hospital of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage she had suffered the week before. She was interred in the Garden of Memory of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Glendale, California.

This interview, with the notable Tex McRary (who, incidentally was a pioneer in Talk Radio) is part of a Bond Drive for the Korean Wa which Mary Pickford actively participated in. Intermixed with reminiscences about her time in film, she also plugs the need for Savings Bonds, War Bonds, and just about anything to raise money for the Korean War effort.

Here is that interview as broadcast on June 15, 1953 with Mary Pickford and Tex McRary.

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