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Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood Paperback – August 31, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky; 1st edition (August 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813191793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813191799
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Graceann Macleod on January 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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By Alonzo on August 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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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