It was Mary's mother, Charlotte, who broached the subject of her eldest daughter applying for work at Biograph, the leading film company in New York in 1909. The Biograph studio was sending two reels of film every day to the exhibitors, and word had it that the company was paying five dollars a day for actors in their movies.
"Would you be very much against applying for work at the Biograph studio, Mary?"
Go into the movies? Mary was incredulous. How demeaning! She was a Belasco actress; the flickers were beneath her dignity.
But a job in moving pictures would mean the four members of the Pickford family could stay together in New York for the summer, and Charlotte wasn't long in pointing that out.
Charlotte wasn't above a little bribery either. If Mary would agree to try her luck at Biograph, her mother would allow her to wear a pair of silk stockings for the first time. And a pair of high-heeled shoes.
Because she always did as Charlotte told her, Mary swallowed her pride. She dressed in her navy blue serge suit, striped shirtwaist, and a new, rolled brim straw hat, and boarded the streetcar to West 14th Street.
Mary had planned her route to the Biograph studio very carefully, in order to spend only one nickel on the cross-town trolley. Why waste precious money on such a pointless trip, anyway? She would step inside the hated studio, pay the call she'd promised her mother she would, and get out of there as quickly as she could.
The above is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Mary Pickford, Canada's Silent Siren, America's Sweetheart.
Look for it in bookstores in September, or preorder now, online.