Skip PBS navigation bar, and jump to content.
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

The Film & More
Special Features
People & Events
Teacher's Guide

spacer above content
Timeline: Mary Pickford chronology

1870-1919 | 1920-1999  


Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford 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.


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


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.


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


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."


Mary Pickford Buddy Rogers in Best Girl 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 Lindbergh 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.


Mary Pickford haircut 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.


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.

Mary Pickford Douglas Fairbanks in Shrew 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.


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.


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


Adolf Hitler becomes Germany's chancellor.

Mary Pickford in Secrets 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.


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.


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

Mary Pickford Buddy Rogers 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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


Mary Pickford Buddy Rogers and children 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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


Mary Pickford with honorary Oscar 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.


Charlie Chaplin dies on Christmas Day at age 88.


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.


April 21: Buddy Rogers dies at age 94.

1870-1919 | 1920-1999  

page created on 7.23.04
Site Navigation

Mary Pickford Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline
Gallery | People & Events | Teacher's Guide

American Experience | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe | Web Credits

© New content 1997-2004 PBS Online / WGBH

Mary Pickford American Experience

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: