Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood by Eileen Whitfield.
Paperback: 488 pages
Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky
"A knockout of a biography." -- Newsweek A silent-film star. A woman who played children, wide-eyed and gamine, skipping about in frills and long curls. That's how most people remember Mary Pickford. In reality, Pickford was a towering figure in movie history, central to the evolution of film acting and the development of the Hollywood motion picture industry. Born in Toronto in 1892, Pickford began acting as a child. She switched from stage to film at seventeen, joining D.W. Griffith's Biograph Company, and became almost unimaginably popular. This allowed her to dictate the terms of her contracts -- power she seized and consolidated. She developed her own production company at Adolph Zukor's Famous Players, and in 1919 she co-founded United Artists (along with Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks), taking not only creative control but also direction of the marketing and distribution of her films. Eight years in the making, this definitive biography brings Pickford to life as a complex knot of contradictions and establishes her as a groundbreaking genius, casting new light on one of the most influential and least understood artists in the history of popular culture. Eileen Whitfield recreates Pickford's life in meticulously researched detail, from her trying days in turn-of-the-century Toronto through her reign as mistress of Pickfair, the legendary Beverly Hills estate at which she and Fairbanks entertained the world's elite, to her sadly moving demise. Along the way, Whitfield explores the intricate psychology that tied Pickford to her mother throughout her life and analyzes Pickford's brilliant innovations in the art of film acting, her profound influence on the movie business, and her role in the history of fame: once the best known woman in the world, she was the object of a mass adoration that prefigured today's cult of celebrity.
This book took me a while to read. I wasn’t opening it each time I sat down, but it wasn’t from the lack of interest. It was one of those books that squeezed double the amount of words on a page than most books do …aaannnd…. I really don’t like LONG chapters and many of these were like 40 to 50 pages long. There were many easy places to stop but I found myself stopping sooner and not rushing back. However.. I did finish the book, and it was quite interesting!
Of course I had hard of Mary Pickford and most especially about the time she was married to Douglas Fairbanks and their famous home called “Pickfair”.
It was very interesting reading how movies went from Silent to Sound as seen thru the eyes of Mary Pickford. She did not crossover very well.
She was then one of the founders of United Artists, along with Chaplin and Fairbanks.
I found it rather sad that even in the infancy of movies one could be typed casted and made to feel that if they “changed” anything about them that her fans would not tolerate it. Or maybe it was herself that kept her making movies in the same look and same type character as she grew older.. I’m not sure which.
In her personal life, although she married again after Fairbanks and remained married to her husband Buddy Rogers until her death, she never got over Douglas Fairbanks. He was the love of her life. I hope and think she loved Buddy, because he certainly loved her enough to put up with her calling him Douglas at times and her eventually drinking problem.
Life isn’t always what it looks like. And Mary Pickford is an example of that.
The book manages to cover all the silent movies that Pickford made along with keeping up with most things concerning her private life. Her marriages, her family problems, her mother etc.
I enjoyed the book and learning about “The Woman Who Made Hollywood”.
For old movie star fans and those with interests in the Silent Movie era, this and the book, Chaplin (by Charles Chaplin) should be must reads.