Mary Pickford

  1. Mae Marsh, Man’s Genesis, 1912.     Known variously as Little Mary and The Glad Girl, the Canadian-born Pickford was incensed when (horror of   horrors!) a non-stage-trained girl took her place. And all because Little Mary refused to wear a little grass skirt.
  2. Mae Marsh, The Sands of Dee, 1912.     When Mae replaced her again, The Girl With The Curls showed her claws and quit Biograph in fury and returned to Broadway.   Mae remained among silent movie director DW Griffith’s favourite actresses – starring in The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, 1915-1916
  3.  Lotte Pickford, The Diamond in the Sky, 1915.    Back in movies at Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players, Pickford’s salary rose from $500 to $2,000 a week when the American Film Company offered her double for this serial.   It went to her sister (at less money) as Zucker increased Mary to $10,000 a week!   She always eyed Chaplin’s income.   “There’s no doubt,” said Zukor, “about the cash register nature of a segment of her brain.”   To keep her happy – and him – he formed The Mary Pickford Studio, guaranteeing her $1,040,000 for two years plus extra perks. So, now they called her… Goldilocks!   And not just because she was still playing teenagers – at age 23.
  4. Mary Miles Minter, Anne of Green Gables, 1919.      Pickford was forming, United Artists, with Chaplin and her husband Douglas Fairbanks. Adolphe Zukor introduced MMM to William Desmond Taylor… and a scandal of sex, drugs,   and murder was born.   Pickford retired in 1934, having made an astonishing 248 films in 25 years!
  5. Charlotte Henry, Alice In Wonderland, 1933.      Colour tests were made when Mary offered to finance Disney and star (in a live-action and animation production). Now it was Paramount trying to save its sinking ship with as most of its contracted stars (Cary Grant as Mock Turtle!).   Didn’t work. Their costuming hid who they were! Apart from the nine Alice possibilities: Marge Champion, 16; Betty Gable, 23; Paulette Goddard, 23; Pearl  Hay, 12; Ida Lupino, 15; Anne Shirley, 15; and two real kiddiwinks: Sue Kellog and the stunning six-year-old Marilyn Knowlden.  The  winner was Charlotte Henry, 19, from New York and eventually 31 other movies.
  6. Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz, 1938.
  7. Dolores Costello, The Magnificent Ambersons, 1941.     Realising Pickford was not right, Orson Welles coaxed Dolores, The Goddess of the Silent Screen, out of retirement.   Once wed to John Barrymore (making her Drew Barrymore’s grandmother), Costello made one more film and quit – her skin suffering   from   harsh studio make up.
  8. Irene Dunne, Life With Father, 1946.  Who knew Pickford, said the Warner suits. OK, she won the rights to the Broadway hit, even agreed to test but, hell,  she hadn’t made a movie for 13 years!  Yet they weren’t alarmed about William Powell, as her manipulated husband, when he’d been off-screen for the nine years since  the tragically early death of his lover, Jean Harlow. Director Michael Curtiz agreed that Dunne had more box-office pull (in her only colour film), although he really wanted Bette Davis.
  9. Gloria Swanson, Sunset Blvd, 1949.     After Mae West, Pola Negri refused, Director Billy Wilder and his co-writer, Charles Brackett, went shopping – at Pickfair, the famous abode of Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Snr. Halfway through their pitch,   she looked as if she were saying: “Are they mad? I am to play a woman who seduced a young writer 20 years younger and gives him presents.” They halted: “Miss Pickford, we are in grave error. Forgive us.” And they backed out of her presence, her house, her life. Another version of the legend has her loving it – if she had full control of the production as per the old days. In short, Mary, who had retired after a trio of “costly and disheartening” flops in 1933, was still big.   Only the pictures had got small.
  10. Kathryn Beaumont, Alice in Wonderland, 1950.   Twenty years earlier, Walt Disney made colour test of Pickford for his story-boarded plans for a live-action Alice in an animated Wonderland –  a full-length extension of his Alice Comedies starring  Virginia Davis, Margie Gay and Lois Hardwicke. (The first, Alice’s Wonderland, was shot in the Davis’ Kansas City home in 1923 and also featured both both Davis’ mother and Disney).  As Disney proved himself in animation, his next plan was a toon Alice – voiced by…  Well, Ginger Rogers was the first idea, but he later chose a more suitable  a 12-year-old from London, Kathryn Beaumont., discovered in On an Island with You, 1947. She dressed as  Alice to get in the mood for the recordings – and for reference scenes filmed at the  Disney Studios. She narrates Disneyland’s Alice ride.
  11. Rita Hayworth, Miss Sadie Thompson, 1953.    America’s Sweetheart  wanted to be America’s ex-hooker. No one  else did. She still clung to her rights to the W Somerset Maugham story for eons… although she had made her 251st and last film in 1932.
  12. Bette Davis, Storm Centre. 1955.  For the first Hollywood movie daring to denounce the McCarthy Witch-hunt Era, director Stanley Kramer had the bright idea of allowing Pickford the comeback she craved. She was delighted with real-life story of a small Oklahoma town’s librarian, Ruth W Brown, being fired for refusing to remove a book on Communism from her shelves.  Pickford quit, saying her first film since 1933 should be in colour. And it was a colour that ruined her casting.  Calling it a pro-red script, Hollywood’s right-wingers, such as the dreaded gossip hen Hedda Hopper, pressured “America’s Sweetheart”  into  leaving  the project.  Also getting the Hopper bullying – tantamount to approving censoring free speech  and book-banning –  Irene Dunne, Barbara Stanwyck and Loretta Young fled.  Kramer quit and new team got Bette’s fearless OK.  “An exciting project… a subject I felt important to make a film about. The film was not a success… ‘and not  in my opinion, because of the subject matter. I never felt it turned out tobbe a good picture.” Consequently, it was the only film directed by co-scenarist Daniel Taradash. 


 Birth year: 1892Death year: 1978Other name: Casting Calls:  12