A famous silent film actress Mary Pickford was born on April 8, 1892 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her real name was Gladys Louise Smith. She started working at the young age of seven when she was offered a bit part at Toronto's Princess Theater in a stock company production "The Silver King." This led to her to work in many melodramas, and through years of hard work she managed to land a role on Broadway in 1907 called "The Warrens of Virginia." It was the producer of this play who insisted that Gladys Smith assume the stage name of Mary Pickford.
At the age of 16 she starred as Dorothy Nicholson in Mrs. Jones Entertains (1909). The next year was a busy one for her. In the early days of filmmaking it wasn't at all uncommon for performers to play in several films every year, often working on more than one at a time. In 1909, Mary appeared in 51 films - almost one a week! The following years were no less hectic. By the age of 20 Mary .had appeared in 176 films.
In 1916, Pickford signed a new contract that granted her full authority over the production of the films she starred in, and also a record breaking salary of $10,000.00 a week. Occasionally, she played a child, in films like The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), and Daddy-Long-Legs (1919). These "Little Girl" roles are superbly done, and Pickford's fans were devoted to them. But the roles aren't typical of her career.
In 1920 she helped to establish United Artists Pictures, a studio that was responsible for many great films for the next 60-plus years. In 1919, she increased her power by co-founding United Artists (UA) with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and her soon-to-be husband, Douglas Fairbanks. As a co-founder, as well as the producer and star of her own films, Pickford became the most powerful woman who has ever worked in Hollywood.
When she retired from acting in 1933, Pickford continued to produce films for United Artists, and she and Chaplin remained partners in the company for decades. Chaplin left the company in 1955, and Pickford followed suit in 1956, selling her remaining shares for three million dollars. Mary was more than an actress; she was a tough, savvy businesswoman with, and was proud of the fact that she knew what worked for her and what didn't. On top of all that, she was one of 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Finally, at 43, Mary made her last film, Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (1934), and then retired from films for a well-deserved rest. Her career lasted from 1908 to 1935, encompassing 236 films.
Without a doubt, Mary Pickford was the most popular star in the silent era, if not of all time. She was awarded an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1976, from the very organization she had started years earlier. On May 29, 1979, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Santa Monica, California. She was 87 years old.
In consideration of her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute named Pickford 24th among the greatest female stars of all time.