From Library Journal
Silent screen star Mary Pickford was "America's Sweetheart," capturing the imagination of the public as "Little Mary," the adolescent with spunk. She married swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks, and with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith they formed United Artists, the first production company run by people who acted and directed. Pickford and Fairbanks were the closest thing to royalty that era had, but behind Pickford's success was personal unhappiness: she did not make the transition to adult roles or the "talkies," her marriage ended, and she died a reclusive alcoholic, almost forgotten. Though it does include delicious anecdotes from those who were there, this is not simply a typical celebrity biography but a "biography" of the times, that golden era when a star could dictate the tastes of the public and hide behind a glittering persona. Journalist and film reviewer Whitfield skillfully analyzes the social impact of Pickford and her films and delves behind the facade of fame. Though there have been other biographies of Pickford, this will stand as the definitive one. Highly recommended.?Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Bay Area Cooperative Lib. System, Cal.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A capable account of the life and times of one of the greats of the silent-movie era. Combining emotionally subtle, naturalistic acting with a sweet, wholesome demeanor, Pickford was one of the world's first film stars. For more than a decade she reigned as ``America's Sweetheart,'' starring in such silent classics as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917) and Pollyanna (1920). As Whitfield relates, her marriage to Douglas Fairbanks in 1920 attracted the kind of attention and adulation normally reserved for royal weddings, and indeed, the two were often referred to as Hollywood's ``royal couple.'' Our age might be celebrity-obsessed, but the devotion paid to Pickford seem almost unintelligible today. This doggerel verse from the New York Dramatic Mirror, cited by Whitfield, was all too typical: ``Silent enchantress! Are any as blind to you/As not to feel the glad charm of your art?/Time spare the youth of you, fortune be kind to you,/Queen of the Movies and queen of my heart!'' Reluctant to break from the image that had made her so successful, Pickford continued to play adolescent girls--and sometimes boys--into her late 30s. Then sound was introduced, and though she'd been theater-trained, she just couldn't make the transition successfully. Her last years were straight out of Sunset Boulevard (for which she auditioned), as she took to drinking and reclusively shut herself away in her mansion. Whitfield, a film critic for Toronto Life, does a thorough but unexciting job of chronicling Pickford's career, from her desperately poor childhood in Canada (she went on the stage, originally, to help provide for her family) to her reluctant debut in films to her key role in founding United Artists. Sadly, many of Pickford's films have vanished. Any record of these losses, even an unremarkable one such as Whitfield's, thus ought to be valued by those who care about film. (60 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.