Mary Pickford Rediscovered: Rare Pictures of a Hollywood Legend

Mary Pickford Rediscovered: Rare Pictures of a Hollywood Legend

by Kevin Brownlow, Robert Cushman
"America's Sweetheart" is the subject of this lavish tribute, illustrated with fabulous film stills, rare production shots, and personal photographs--most never before published. 232 illustrations.


"America's Sweetheart" is the subject of this lavish tribute, illustrated with fabulous film stills, rare production shots, and personal photographs--most never before published. 232 illustrations.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The first comprehensive study of silent film star Mary Pickford, this lush photographic tribute is a testament not only to Pickford's monumental career but also to film curators and preservationists who, in efforts such as this, renew appreciation for their subjects. According to the authors, historian and filmmaker Brownlow and Cushman, the photograph curator at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), Pickford's legacy is ripe for reassessment: in effect, they argue, she single-handedly created the star system. Her art lay in pleasing her fans; her genius, in collaborating with the industry's best screenwriters, directors, and cinematographers. But as these pages show, her reputation for cloying little-girl portrayals belied greater versatility and business acumen. Brownlow's enlightening synopses, based on interviews and first-hand accounts, supplement the rare stills Cushman has culled from the archives of AMPAS. A stunning contribution to film history; highly recommended for large public and academic libraries.--Jayne Plymale, Univ. of Georgia, Athens Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Not only does this volume feature, as the title suggests, many previously unpublished photos of the silent film star (these consisting of film stills, production shots, and personal photographs drawn from the collection of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), it also contains extensive commentary on Pickford's career and each of her films. Not merely the most popular actress of her day, Pickford also exercised complete control over her films, making her a pioneer for women in positions of power in the film industry. For film historians and fans, this valuable volume contains a wealth of otherwise unavailable information about<-->as well as images of<-->her career. 9x12<">. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Molly Haskell
...[S]he was a great deal more than a cuddly little girl in ringlets and pinafores, but how much more is amply and beautifully demonstrated in Mary Pickford Rediscovered....Let's hope this literally and figuratively eye-opening book will serve as spur and companion to revivals of her films, and to what remains of the classical silent-film repertory.
The New York Times Book Review
New York Times Book Review
Let's hope this literally and figuratively eye-opening book will serve as spur and compnion to revivals of her films.
Time eloquent appreciation by silent-film historian Kevin Brownlow, joins a superb bringing the actress alive on the page.

Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.37(w) x 12.25(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

...Contrary to general present-day perception, Mary Pickford was much more than "the little girl with the golden curls." She was a unique symbol of the birth and growth of the only art form that found its origins in the western hemisphere -- the motion picture. She was the most popular, powerful, prominent, and influential woman in the history of the cinema. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of that fact today. Why? It is largely Pickford's own fault: she rigidly controlled and kept her films out of public view for over forty years. Why? She was afraid she would be laughed at -- in the wrong way. She could not have been more mistaken.

One of the earliest of the great pioneer performers in film, she had been making movies for several years before luminaries such as Lillian Gish and Charles Chaplin ever stepped in front of of a camera. Having been a stage actress since age five, Mary Pickford entered the movies in April 1909, at age seventeen; and within a few months, at a time when most "legitimate" actors looked on the "galloping tintypes" with dismissive, withering contempt, she had the vision to realize the hitherto undreamed-of potential of the motion picture while it was still in its infancy. She stayed with this new medium that many derided as a toy and went on to build a career that was unprecedented in the annals of entertainment and eventually made her the most popular woman in the world.

She was certainly the world's first "superstar," as she was the first figure in the performing arts to achieve international fame and recognition among millions of people around the globe. There was simply no precedent for this level of fame, no concept or comprehension of just what such fame meant in terms of both professional and personal life. Mary was the first person to learn precisely what this entailed -- and how to deal with it.

Pickford was the first female star to found her own corporation (in 1915), and she virtually invented the concept of the independent star/producer. To this role she added the concept of distributor, an entrepreneurial inspiration that resulted in the incorporation and coownership (with partners Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith) of United Artists early in 1919. That was a unique moment in film history; to this day no one has ever succeeded in amassing so much control. Even the likes of Steven Spielberg and Barbara Streisand do not personally own their distribution companies.

Until her retirement from acting in 1933, after more than two hundred films and twenty-five years after her motion picture debut, Pickford was never to desert the screen, save for a brief Broadway run in a David Belasco play early in 1913. She developed a deep respect for the motion picture medium at a very early stage in her career and would always take whatever steps necessary, often risking life and limb, to achieve all effects correctly. Nothing -- no job -- was beneath her, even when she was her own producer and the world's biggest star. If it was for the good of the picture, she did it. She would ride a horse at full gallop atop a narrow twenty-foot wall, plunge into icy water, and pick up a five-foot snake. Reminiscing with Kevin Brownlow, she recalled, "There was always something that scared me about that camera...."

The space allotted Pickford in film histories has been inappropriately small, in light of her enormous importance, but some observations have been insightful. In 1915 Julian Johnson was one of the earliest to grasp her significance:
Occasionally, a science, a trade, a craft or an art produces some single exponent who stands above all other exponents; who becomes not so much a famous individual as a symbol; whose very name, in any land, is a personification of the thing itself.... What Edison symbolizes in electricity, what Stephenson stands for in mechanical invention or Spencer in synthetic philosophy, Mary Pickford stands for in the great new art world of living shadows.

In 1931 even the severe critic C. A. Lejeune succumbed when she wrote in her Cinema:

...she is at once a myth and a surety, a legend and a pledge.... It is a rather curious corollary...that Mary Pickford, a woman of steely sense and practicality, should have become the cinema's great sentimentality, the concrete expression of our ideals and memories.... She sends us away from the picture-house absurdly generous, ridiculously touched, so that we want to stop the first grubby urchin in the street and surprise it with a five-pound note, buy an orphanage, adopt a township of homeless dogs, or sell all we have and give it to the poor....

Excerpted by permission of Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Copyright c 1999 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >