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American Experience

Mary Pickford (Season 17, Episode 6)
TV Episode | 90 min | Documentary, Biography, History

Through interviews with film historians and biographers, and through archival footage, the rise and fall of the professional life of actress and businessperson Mary Pickford (1892-1979) - born Gladys Smith - and the associated ebbs and ...See moreThrough interviews with film historians and biographers, and through archival footage, the rise and fall of the professional life of actress and businessperson Mary Pickford (1892-1979) - born Gladys Smith - and the associated ebbs and flows in her personal life, are presented. At the height of her fame, she was dubbed "America's Sweetheart" despite being born in Canada. Mary's widowed mother, Charlotte Smith, got herself, Mary and Mary's two siblings into the somewhat disreputable profession of acting - first on the stage, then into the emerging form of moving pictures - as a means of economic survival, but it soon became clear of Mary's star quality compared to her other family members. Mary and Charlotte's foray into the business side of show business was in a means to take control of Mary's own career, against the actions of impresarios and studio executives who may not have had Mary's best interests at heart. Arguably the biggest maneuver in Mary's business life was the formation of United Artists in 1919 with director D.W. Griffith, fellow actor Charles Chaplin and who would become her second of three husbands, fellow actor Douglas Fairbanks, that marriage the most famous of the three despite not being the longest. United Artists was not only a means to distribute the movies made under their production company under their control, but to provide an outlet for all creative artists in the motion picture business some financial security. Mary's slide began in the late 1920s having overextended herself in her own human resource on the business side, and her adoring fans not allowing her to grow up on screen, the advent of talking pictures only one of the many aspects which showed a Mary with who the public could not relate. Mary's Academy Award win as Best Actress in 1930 for Coquette, not a typical Pickford role and the first speaking role to win the award, is largely seen as an award to her contributions to the film industry as opposed to an award for this particular role. Written by Huggo See less
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Edit Released
Updated Apr 4, 2005

Release date
Apr 4, 2005 (United States)

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Cast

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22 cast members
Name STARmeter Known for
Jeanine Basinger
Herself - Film Historian Herself - Film Historian   See fewer
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Scott Eyman
Himself - Biographer Himself - Biographer   See fewer
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Robert Cushman
Himself - Film Historian Himself - Film Historian   See fewer
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Kevin Brownlow
Himself - Film Historian Himself - Film Historian   See fewer
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Tino Balio
Himself - Film Historian Himself - Film Historian   See fewer
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Malcolm Boyd
Himself - Friend of Mary Pickford Himself - Friend of Mary Pickford   See fewer
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Eileen Whitfield
Herself - Biographer Herself - Biographer   See fewer
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Laura Linney
Herself - Narrator (voice) Herself - Narrator (voice)   See fewer
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Victoria Flexner
Dramatization Actor Dramatization Actor   See fewer
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Glenn Stockton
Dramatization Actor Dramatization Actor   See fewer
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Jeannette Stockton
Dramatization Actor Dramatization Actor   See fewer
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Sarah Hutt
Dramatization Actor Dramatization Actor   See fewer
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Jesse Sweet
Dramatization Actor Dramatization Actor   See fewer
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Mary Pickford
Herself (archive footage) Herself (archive footage)   See fewer
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Douglas Fairbanks
Himself (archive footage) Himself (archive footage)   See fewer
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Charles Chaplin
Himself (archive footage) Himself (archive footage)   See fewer
Top 5000
D.W. Griffith
Himself (archive footage) Himself (archive footage)   See fewer
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Amelia Earhart
Herself (archive footage) Herself (archive footage)   See fewer
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Jack Pickford
Himself (archive footage) Himself (archive footage)   See fewer
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Lottie Pickford
Herself (archive footage) Herself (archive footage)   See fewer
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Charlotte Smith
Herself (archive footage) Herself (archive footage)   See fewer
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Charles 'Buddy' Rogers
Himself (archive footage) (as Buddy Rogers) Himself (archive footage) (as Buddy Rogers)   See fewer
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Ratings Breakdown

7.1 / 10 | 83 votes