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Mary Pickford | Timeline

A Century of Hollywood Events

Pickford-timeline.jpg
Courtesy: Edward Wagenknecht

1870
A half-century of tremendous industrial growth begins in the U.S. Millions of European immigrants will arrive over the coming decades, seeking work.

1878
October 19: Eadweard Muybridge's photographs of a horse's stride are published in Scientific American. The groundbreaking images lead to further experimentation in the area of motion pictures.

1882
David Belasco enters Broadway and makes a name for himself as a theater producer.

1888
George Eastman puts the easy-to-use Kodak camera on the market. It lets people take the first "snapshots," using a new invention -- photographic film.

1890-92
Thomas Edison's assistant, William Dickson, develops a motion picture camera called the Kinetograph. Two years later he will unveil a primitive projector called the Kinetoscope. For the first time ever, it is possible to project film images.

1892
April 8: Gladys Louise Smith, the future Mary Pickford, is born in Toronto to Irish working class parents: John Charles and Charlotte.

1893
Pickford's sister Charlotte (Lottie) is born; the exact date is not registered.

1895
Auguste and Louis Limiere's Cinématographe, a projector that shows 16 frames per second, is used for the world's first public film screening.

Pickford's brother John (Jack) is born. No date is registered.

1896
Vaudeville entertainment enters its heyday in America, presenting short motion picture films interspersed with juggling, music, magic tricks, and skits.

1898
The Spanish American War begins. Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders secure victory at San Juan Hill in Cuba on July 1.

February 11: Pickford's father, John Charles, dies from a cerebral hemorrhage.

1900
January 8: Not yet eight years old, Pickford debuts in her first stage performance of The Silver King at Toronto's Princess Theatre. The building is the city's first public structure with electric lights and can seat more than 1,500 people. On opening night, Pickford performs for Canadian soldiers on their way to South Africa to serve in the Boer War. The mood in the theater is electric and young Gladys is swept away by the excitement.

April 9: Pickford plays the lead in a Vaudeville sketch, The Littlest Girl.

1901
April 8: At the age of nine, Pickford plays Little Eva, the daughter of a slave owner, in Uncle Tom's cabin.

Fall: Pickford and her family travel to Buffalo, New York, learning their lines on the way, to perform in At the Little Red Schoolhouse. Their trip is the beginning of more than five years of touring with various acting companies.

With the arrival of electricity, Broadway sets out white lights stretching from 13th to 46th Street, inspiring the nickname "the Great White Way."

1904
Marcus Loew founds Loews Theatres. It will become the longest-lived theater chain in America.

1905
John Harris and Harry Davis coin the term "nickelodeon" when they open a theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The name is derived from the cost of entry — a nickel — and the Greek word for theater, "odeon."

1907
Tired of life on the road, Pickford, still known as Gladys Smith, auditions for David Belasco on Broadway. The producer changes her name to Mary Pickford and gives her a salary of $25 a week.

December 3: Pickford makes her Broadway debut in a William De Mille play, "The Warrens of Virginia."

1908
The Motion Picture Patents Company, known simply as "the Trust," is established to control the film industry. Ten producers are granted licenses to use equipment authorized by the Trust. Everyone else is running illegal film production operations.

Director D.W. Griffith's first film, The Adventures of Dollie, debuts in New York.

1909
When the show she is performing in folds, and Belasco cannot guarantee future roles, Pickford is pushed by her mother to find work in film. She goes to Biograph Studios in New York and waits for an interview with D. W. Griffith. She sees film acting as a step down, but her family's financial need leaves her little choice. She joins Biograph, earning a salary of $100 a week ($1954 in 2003 dollars). With the quick production timetables of the era, she will act in dozens of short films, including a 1911 piece, The Dream, with co-star Owen Moore.

1911
January 7: Pickford marries Owen Moore. Her mother disapproves of Moore; Pickford feels compelled to hide the marriage from her family and the public for several months.

February 11: The first issue of Motion Picture Story Magazine is published, and its competitor, Photoplay, appears soon after, signaling the birth of fan culture. Photoplay will vote Pickford "Number One Actress of the Year" 15 times.

1912
July 12: New York society elites attend the premiere of Queen Elizabeth, a film starring Sarah Bernhardt, at the Lyceum theatre. The event helps extend film's reach to the upper class
The New York Hat is released. It is the 70th — and last — film Pickford will make for Biograph and D. W. Griffith.

William Fox establishes The Fox Film Foundation, which becomes one of Hollywood's foremost studios.

1913
Adolph Zukor woos Mary Pickford for his company, Famous Players, at $500 a week (over $9000 in 2003 dollars). She is 21 and the highest paid actress in the world.

A British-born actor, Charlie Chaplin, lands his first film contract in the U.S. with Keystone Studios.

1914
Pickford stars in Tess of the Storm Country, her fifth feature, and first in a series for Famous Players. Her celebrity hits extravagant new levels following films like Tess and Rags, as she portrays a new type of heroine, feisty and independent.

World War I begins in Europe.

1915
The U.S. government orders The Motion Picture Patents Company disbanded due to trade violations.

Griffith's controversial Birth of a Nation stuns audiences with its inflammatory social commentary and revolutionary film techniques.

1916
Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company renews Pickford's salary to a record $10,000 a week (over $173,000 in 2003 dollars).

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Courtesy: Edward Wagenknecht

Griffith's second masterwork, Intolerance, is released in theaters to counter controversy over his earlier film, Birth of a Nation.

1917
America enters World War I. Pickford tours the U.S. with Fairbanks, Chaplin, and Marie Dressler to support America's involvement. Demand for motion pictures increases as Americans seek an escape during war time.

Pickford, at age 25, stars in the popular Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farmand The Poor Little Rich Girl, playing young girls in both features.

1918
November: World War I ends.

Pickford stuns audiences with her dramatic acting in Stella Maris. Some critics say the film is her best work.

1919
January 1: Prohibition begins. The Eighteenth Amendment is ratified, placing a nationwide ban on the manufacture and transportation of intoxicating beverages.

Pickford, along with actors Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin, and director D. W. Griffith, form United Artists to produce and distribute their own films.

Pickford stars in Daddy-Long-Legs, her first film as an independent producer.

1920
March 28: Pickford and Fairbanks both divorce their spouses so they can marry. Their marriage is hailed as "the marriage of the century" and the public embraces them as Hollywood royalty. The couple resides in southern California, in a spacious former hunting lodge the press calls "Pickfair." Over the years, it will serve as a gathering place for politicians, journalists, artists, and foreign diplomats.

United Artists releases Pollyanna, with Pickford playing the lead; it grosses $1.1 million ($11.2 million in 2003 dollars).

Fairbanks stars in The Mark of Zorro. Adventure films quickly become popular.

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Courtesy: Edward Wagenknecht

1921
Pickford plays both a young boy and his mother in the screen version of Little Lord of Fauntleroy. The movie is a box office success. Critics and fans alike commend the innovative cinematography and Pickford's pleasing performances.

1923
Warner Brothers, one of the first large film studios, is founded.

Rosita, a collaboration between Pickford and German director Ernst Lubitsch, makes over a million dollars and plays to more sophisticated audiences.

1924
Columbia and MetroGoldwyn (later named Metro Goldwyn Mayer, M.G.M.) are established, joining Warner Brothers as major players in the growing film business.

1926
Warner Brothers releases Don Juan, the first film to feature sound effects and music. With this film, the industry initiates a shift towards talkies, which will turn the silent film industry upside down.

The National Broadcasting Corporation is established as a radio network.

Pickford departs from her usual upbeat roles to star in Sparrows, a dark film climaxing with an exciting escape scene in which Pickford helps captive children escape from a "baby farm."

1927
Pickford stars in My Best Girl with her future husband Buddy Rogers. It will be her last silent film.

Pickford and Fairbanks help found the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Jazz Singer is released, with Al Jolson in the starring role. The first film to feature talking and singing, it electrifies the industry.

May 20: Charles Lindberg makes the first solo flight across the Atlantic, traveling from New York to Paris in 33-1/2 hours.

September 7: Philo Farnsworth, an inquisitive Utah boy, conceives of television.

1928
Pickford's mother Charlotte dies of breast cancer. The event leaves Pickford devastated and she cuts off her famous curls in front of journalists. The story makes the front page of the New York Times.

Radio-Keith Orpheum (R.K.O.) joins the ranks of the major Hollywood studios. The company is created in the merger of the Radio Corporation of America (R.C.A.), Film Booking Office (F.B.O.) and Keith-Albee-Orpheum, a major Vaudeville corporation.

Hollywood is valued as a $65 million industry with more than 300,000 employees.

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Courtesy: Mary Pickford Library

1929
October 29: The stock market crash on Black Tuesday leaves millions of Americans penniless and devastated. The Great Depression follows, casting a grim shadow over America.

Pickford appears in her first talkie, Coquette. The sound quality is shaky, but the film does well at the box offices, grossing $1.4 million.

Pickford and Fairbanks star together in The Taming of the Shrew. It is a misguided effort to bolster their stardom, and the film is not a box office success.

1930
April 3: Pickford receives an Academy Award for her performance in Coquette. Unable to make the transition to the talkies, she will find her star on the wane.

1932
Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the 32nd president and introduces the "New Deal" to help Americans recover from the Depression.

1933
Adolf Hitler becomes Germany's chancellor.

Pickford stars in her last film, Secrets, which loses money at the box office.

January 2: Pickford's brother Jack dies from various health problems, most of which stem from his alcoholism.

1934
Prohibition ends in America.

Pickford begins a string of radio ventures with the Mary Pickford Stock Radio Company. Critics pan her screen and stage adaptations for radio and Pickford takes a break from the airwaves until 1936, when she hosts Parties at Pickfair, a radio program providing celebrity gossip from Pickfair events. The show dwells in the ratings cellar, driving Pickford away from radio until the 1940s.

1936
December 9: Pickford's sister Lottie dies of a heart attack.

January 10: Under the strain of two faltering public careers, the "marriage of the century" ends in divorce. Though Pickford and Fairbanks retain strong feelings for each other, they will both remarry.

1937
June 24: Pickford marries Buddy Rogers, her costar from My Best Girl (1927).

1938
Mary Pickford Cosmetics are introduced to the market. Pickford appears in advertisements for the new products.

1939
December 12: Fairbanks dies of a heart attack. Pickford is crushed.

1939
August: Germany and Russia sign a non-aggression pact, paving the way for Germany to invade Poland and start World War II. The U.S. will join the Allied effort in 1941. Pickford will host parties for the troops at Pickfair.

1941
The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers is founded by Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Orson Welles, Samuel Goldwyn, David O. Selznick, Alexander Korda, and Walter Wanger. The Society aims to preserve the rights of independent producers in an industry overwhelmingly controlled by studios. Citizen Kane (1941) and Fantasia(1940) are among the acclaimed films produced by Society members.

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Courtesy: Mary Pickford Library

1943
Pickford becomes a mother at age 51. She adopts six-year-old Ronald Charles Rogers. Less than a year later she will adopt a baby girl, Roxanne.

1945
Pickford launches Comet Pictures with Columbia Pictures' Ralph Cohn. The company releases Sleep, My Love (1948), one of Pickford's strongest later productions.

1948
July 23: D. W. Griffith dies. The master filmmaker had spent the last years of life out of step with his times and out of work.

1949
With her husband, Buddy Rogers, and a friend, Malcolm Boyd, Pickford opens Pickford-Rogers-Boyd, a radio and television production company with offices in New York.

1956
Pickford sells her shares in United Artists for $3 million ($19.7 million in 2003 dollars), ending her involvement in the nearly 40-year business venture she founded.

1958
The Mary Pickford Foundation, an organization that still exists today, is formed.

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Courtesy: Herrick Library / AMPS

1965
The Cinématheque Française hosts a retrospective of Pickford's films. Pickford makes a last trip to Paris for the event, where fans rave about her work, then returns to Pickfair and disappears from the public eye.

1976
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents Pickford with a lifetime achievement award. She accepts the award from Pickfair. Audiences are shocked by the old, almost unrecognizable Pickford wearing a wig and false eyelashes.

January 10: Adolph Zukor dies at age 103.

1977
Charlie Chaplin dies on Christmas Day at age 88.

1979
May 29: Pickford dies at her home at age 87, leaving a legacy of 141 short films and 52 features. Her career spanned nearly a quarter-century, but she did not act in a film for the last 46 years of her life.

1999
April 21: Buddy Rogers dies at age 94.

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