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on January 1, 2002
This biography is comprehensive without being dry and "scholarly." It reads like a novel, and it is a surprisingly even-handed biography, illuminating Miss Pickford's genius while showing us her not-so-attractive side. Time is spent on the alcoholism that was a prominent part of the last half of her life, and on her fights with family, including her three husbands, her two adopted children and the friendships she made, cultivated or broken along the way.
A good deal of time is also spent on how United Artists worked in its inception, why the founders thought that such a company was necessary and on the politics inside the company throughout its history. There is a Notes section that tells us where the anecdotes and quotes come from, and a tantalizing bibliography that I will end up using in search of other books on Miss Pickford and on silent film in general.
Buddy Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. were still around when this book was being researched and written, and they, along with numerous others, seem to have shared insights that help us understand the lady, and Fairbanks sheds some light on her complex and lasting love with his father - they continued to be very close up until his death. This may be one of the last things that Fairbanks and Rogers contributed to, and if this is how they would be remembered, its not a bad thing.
If you are interested not only in her films (which run far afield of just the "Little Mary" whom we all have heard about and seen), and for an interesting, highly readable overview of silent film in general, this biography is a must read. I am personally glad I bought it for myself, rather than borrowing it from the library (as I do with many books), because as I learn more about the era and see more of her films, I'm sure I'm going to want to go back to it again (probably more than once).
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on January 19, 2005
I must recommend this biography by Whitfield, who exhaustively researched Pickford's life and "milestones" in breathtaking scope and clarity. Pickford, like others in her field of the silent era, endured poverty, the threat of separation from her mother and siblings... and worked on stage from the age of five. Pickford's mindboggling success,was the combination of angelic charm, savvy business sense, and being at the right place at the right time.

Pickford was a legend in her own time. A woman so popular she became the first and only celebrity to achieve the title of :America's Sweetheart. In Whitfeild's writing is both well researched and choc-a block full of privite anecdotes throughout; from her Father's accidental death, to working with Belasco and D.W Griffith (secretly marrying Owen Moore at 17), and Zukor, to selling war bonds with Chaplin and Fairbanks (husband #2), creating United Artists (1919) and moving on after the invasion of the "talkies". Also explored are her rivals in the industry (especially Gloria Swanson...Sunset Boulevard would have been all the more poignant had Mary starred in it), and her public loves (Owen Moore, Douglas Fairbanks, and later Buddy Rogers). Most fascinating is Pickford's steadfast devotion to her mother Charlotte, and her unsuccessful attempts to help her brother Jack and sister Lottie, who, like Mary became alcoholics. Through the strength of Whitfields data regarding Pickford, we begin to understand Mary's life from the dual -dilemma of her love of her fame and public, to the hold her career had on every decision she made, and how she at times, was paralyzed, as the "most recognized woman in the world."

Mary became typecast as "Little Mary" and she turned out some of the best movies of her generation with "Stella Maris(1919)

" Daddy Long Legs(1919)" "Little Annie Rooney(1925)" "Suds(1920)" "My best Girl(1927)"

She had great difficulty "growing up" in her roles, (which were met with opposition by devoted fans), and using more mature characters and subjects...this is evident in Kiki (1932) one of her attempts to break from her "girl with the curls" image.

(She eventually cut her curls in 1928 after charlotte died, mirroring a symbolic (umbilical cord) , cutting her past away.

Mary was unequaled at the pinnacle of her career, but her intense celebrity status that had became a source of great adoration, was followed abruptly with detachment and pain as old hollywood moved into "Talkies", and the Iconography of Mary was later constantly compared to Shirley Temple in the Thirties. Mary stopped making pictures alltogether by 1933. This wonderful book charts the ups and downs of her unimaginable career, personal life, with recorded insights from those who knew her best. She was an astonishing woman, and Whitfield, though respectful, brings humor, wit and insight into the biography of America's most mystifying "sweetheart". A +
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on February 9, 2001
Mary Pickford was a key figure in American cinematic history. She became the first major silent-film actress and went on to become the first major female film executive as one of the founders of Untied Artists. Popular known in her acting heyday as "America's sweetheart", she enchanted moviegoers with her portraits of golden-haired princesses as well as her moving portrayals of sad-eyed waifs. Eileen Whitfield's Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood recreates Pickford's personal and professional life in vivid detail from her poverty-stricken childhood in turn-of-the-century Toronto, through her undisputed reign as mistress of Pickfair (the Beverly Hills estate where she and her actor husband Douglas Fairbanks entertained in the 1920s), to her sadly moving demise in 1979. Pickford is "must" reading for all Mary Pickford fans and students of the American cinema.
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on August 26, 1999
Since this is one of the very best biographies of a movie actor this longtime film buff has ever read, I have to say I don't understand other readers' quibbles with it. The book isn't just beautifully written and well-researched, it's full of insights, perceptions and thoughts -- which most biographies are terribly short of. Silent movies and silent-movie acting are difficult subjects to discuss in fresh and provocative ways, and here Whitfield also triumphs. Her book is a great introduction to the early days of film and of film stardom too. But beware: this isn't a pop or trashy biography, and it isn't fanzine stuff either. This is literate, intelligent work -- think Arlene Croce or Simon Callow. Could that be what some readers are annoyed by?
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on March 9, 2005
This is two books for the price of one, really. It's a first-rate, meticulously researched biography of Mary Pickford, the first major movie star. But it's also an informative overview of the early days of U.S. film production, valuable for what it reports about D.W. Griffith and other notables as well as Pickford.
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VINE VOICEon August 30, 2005
Eileen Whitfield's research and writing make this book a standout. This obviously took years to compile, write, and edit, but the result is a complete, fascinating look at this legendary actress and woman. As I read it, I kept wondering why she hasn't followed up with another Hollywood biography. She's that good.
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on March 22, 1999
Although I've read several books on Mary Pickford, I was still glued to my seat as I read this fascinating biography. This book really concentrates on her relationships with her husbands Owen Moore; Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.; and Buddy Rogers. It is also thorough in covering her family of Charlotte, Jack, and Lottie. My only disappointment was that the not much of the actual making of her films was covered in-depth. The book has a perfect title, as she was probably the most powerful person in Hollywood from about 1915 until the coming of sound.
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on January 14, 1998
This book is ideal for anyone who knows absolutely nothing about Mary Pickford. If you've read each and every book about Mary Pickford and/or Douglas Fairbanks then this book is familiar ground and still a pleasure to read.
There are dry spaces and not a lot of surprises. As I said before, if you know next to nothing about Mary Pickford you'll find this a fascinating read. I was pleased to read more about her brother, Jack, and sister, Lottie, then I'd read in other books. It wasn't all negative which is something I've noticed in some bios--the negative is what is the most fascinating.
This book was written with a heavy hand in places but despite the fact that it was old territory for me, I could not put it down once I started. It was detailed beyond belief.
My suggestion is this: If you had any doubts about this book as an investement, it's a good one! It contains the entire life of a woman who was the cornerstone to an industry. The heartbreaking part is that no one, it seems, in Hollywood now seems to care much about the history or the preservation of her legacy. The films are there, but the places are long gone because there is no room in most of Los Angeles for the past.
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on November 10, 1997
In a modern world dominated by the movie industry, it is painfully ironic that film's humble beginnings have been forgotten. And equally frustrating is the current near-anonymity of the woman who almost singlehandedly created it: Mary Pickford. In PICKFORD: THE WOMAN WHO MADE HOLLYWOOD, Eileen Whitfield lucidly traces Pickford's early days touring in theater companies, her work with the legenday D.W. Griffith, her rise to the mantle of America's Sweetheart, and her sudden decline with the advent of talkies.The book not only reveals the Pickford story, but it also gives a brilliant insight into the workings of early Hollywood. A must for any film buff!
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on November 21, 2007
I think I can say that this book changed my life. I love movies and the people who make them, and for some reason I was not at all familar with the great Mary Pickford. Reading Ms. Whitfield's PICKFORD: THE WOMAN WHO MADE HOLLYWOOD, I laughed, I cried and I was amazed with what this actress accomplished in her life. This is the sort of book for me that as I approached its last pages, I had to put it down because I did not want it to end. Maybe I didn't want Pickford's life to end. Her life, and particulary her relationship with her mother, has all the workings of a great motion picture. I am now searching for all films that feature Mary Pickford. I have seen many recently and through her and her movies the world of Silent Film has come alive for me. This book fills in the blanks I had about the earliest days of U. S. films and has given me a glimpse into the working life of Pickford. For any students of film, this is a book that must be read. I will never forget the beautiful moment in this book when Mary Pickford is sitting next to Douglas Fairbanks, some time after they had divorced. Their brief converstion, as told by Whitfield, still gets me all misty eyed when I think about it. For me, without a doubt, this is the best book I have read all year!
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