Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Wedding of Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks

Today, March 28th, marks the anniversary of the 1920 marriage of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. The "wedding of the century," as it was dubbed, took place twenty-six days after Mary's divorce from the troubled Owen Moore.

The wedding itself was a private ceremony in Los Angeles, at the home of a Baptist minister. Mary wore a gauzy white dress with apple green trim.

When the news of the marriage broke two days later it incited a fan frenzy, and the world acknowledged the popular couple as Hollywood Royalty.
Mary & Douglas setting off on their honeymoon.
According to Pickford biographer Gary Carey, "Their honeymoon was the most conspicuous in the history of marriage. They reigned at Pickfair [their Beverly Hills home] as the king and queen of Hollywood for more than a decade."

You can find out more about this famous celebrity couple in my book, Mary Pickford, Canada's Silent Siren, America's Sweetheart.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Magic Lantern

See movies for a nickel.
It was serendipitous my coming across the book. Published in 1952, it had been a library discard that I bought for a quarter years ago. The dust cover was long gone; someone's puppy had chewed on one corner. Ugly, in other words. But the title, The Magic Lantern, got my attention. I suspected when I got around to reading it, that it would have something to do with early motion pictures.

I'd been interested in the birth of the movies ever since I began the research on what would become my first book, The Movie Years, published back in 1989.  Two years ago I got another opportunity to delve into that fascinating history again when I started work on Mary Pickford, Canada's Silent Siren, America's Sweetheart (Dundurn, 2011).

All this time, the book by Robert Carson has languished on my book shelf, gathering dust, until the other day when I was looking for something to read. Just as I'd hoped, it is a fictionalized account of early Hollywood. The central character is the son of movie mogul, Frank Silversmith. The novel takes the reader from the vaudeville stage, the nickelodeons and the advent of the flickers, on to the days when movie studios were springing up on vacant " lots" all over Los Angeles.

An early movie theatre

I don't know which studio boss Silversmith, of "Silversmith Productions" is based on, but I recognized much of the background information in the book because it closely follows the history of the birth of Hollywood. It was fun to encounter real life film pioneers in the story, people like D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and Mary Pickford.

Two interesting bits of trivia I later discovered: Author Robert Carson's wife, Mary Jane Irving (1909–1983), was a child star of the silent films just as Mary Pickford had been. And Carson won an Academy Award in 1938 for his well-known screenplay, A Star is Born.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Toronto's Most Famous Daughter

Mary Pickford and friends.
The late Herbert Whittaker, distinguished Canadian theatre critic, once dubbed Mary Pickford "Toronto's most famous daughter." Although Mary was the most stunning example of a Canadian performer adopted into the American theatrical family, there were others.

Clara Morris (1848–1925), an actress, dancer, and writer, was also Toronto-born. Vaudevillian Eva Tanguay (1878–1947) was born in Marbleton, Quebec; and comedienne May Irwin (1862–1938) and her sister Flo were from Whitby, Ontario.

I've already written here about the tragic life of Florence Laurence (1886–1938), who was born in Hamilton, Ontario. The original "Biograph Girl," she never recovered from the trauma she suffered during a studio fire, and Laurence ended her own life by ingesting ant paste.

Like Mary Pickford, these women all began their professional careers as children. The theatre provided the means of escaping poverty for them and their families. Unfortunately there was not enough happening in Canadian theatre in the early years to allow them to stay in this country.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mary Pickford Got it Right

Mary Pickford, one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
The silent movie The Artist took seven Oscars last Sunday at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony. It was only the second silent film to win the prestigious Best Picture Award. The first was the 1927 film, Wings, starring Mary Pickford's future husband, Buddy Rogers. 

Now, eighty-four years later, a silent movie wins again. I can't help thinking that Mary Pickford got it right all those years ago when she said, "Adding sound to movies would be like adding lipstick to the Venus de Milo"