Lavish biography offers telling glimpse of early Hollywood royalty
Not only was she Hollywood’s first female matinee idol and the darling of audiences everywhere (dubbed “America’s Sweetheart”), Mary Pickford was also a savvy and ambitious movie mogul who helped establish motion pictures as a respectable art form and paved the way for future actors, especially women, to control their own careers.
In “Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies” (The University Press of Kentucky, $45), film historian Christel Schmidt has assembled a richly entertaining study of the cinema pioneer who went from blond, curly-locked, silent-film ingénue to powerful star, writer and producer, as well as one of the founders of United Artists.
In 288 pages jam-packed with color and back-and-white photographs from the actresses’ personal collections at the Library of Congress and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the lavish book essays a career that began on stage at age 7 (when Pickford went to work to help her impoverished family) and saw her star in more than 100 silent films by age 20 and seize creative control of her own movies by age 24. Pickford went on to star in some 75 full-length features and to win an acting Oscar for 1929’s “Coquette” before retiring from the screen in 1933.
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