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Timeline: Mary Pickford chronology

1870-1919 | 1920-1999  


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


Eadweard Mybridge photo of horses 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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


Louis Lumiere Auguste and Louis Lumière'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.


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


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

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


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.

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


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, Broadwaysets out white lights stretching from 13th to 46th Street, inspiring the nickname "the Great White Way."


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


Theater 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."


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."


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.


Biograph 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.


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.


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.


Adolph Zukor Mary Pickford 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.


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.


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.


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

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


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 Farm and The Poor Little Rich Girl, playing young girls in both features.


November: World War I ends.

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


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.

1870-1919 | 1920-1999  

page created on 7.23.04
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