Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Defense of Mary Pickford

The many faces of Mary Pickford
According to biographer Scott Eyman (Mary Pickford: America's Sweetheart), Pickford was "criticized by the highbrows for her extraordinary appeal to the masses." Her audiences were mainly women and children. She was the "girl next door," and she didn't go too far afield because she knew who her fans were and what they wanted.

Personally, I'm not sure it's fair to criticize Mary for that. It makes good business sense, and Mary was a shrewd businesswoman.

Certainly Mary Pickford was more conservative than her swashbuckling husband Douglas Fairbanks, and she worked on a smaller scale. But that was her choice. Eyman contends that she could have done more, been more versatile.

"My career was planned," Mary said later. "There was never anything accidental about it. It was planned; it was painful; it was purposeful. I'm not exactly satisfied, but I'm grateful."

What more can anyone ask?


melusina said...

Good points, Peggy. It's always easy to look for flaws in anyone's actions, perceived flaws taken from a modern perspective aren't necessarily so.

Peggy Dymond Leavey said...

Thanks, I appreciate your taking the time to comment :)

Anonymous said...

I haven't read your book on Mary Pickford, so I'm probably "preaching to the choir" here, but while it is true that viewing the past through modern eyes -- i.e., "judging" the past according to current values gives one a distorted picture of history. Revisting that past in order to understand how a culture developed through a modern eyes can give "eye-opening" results and a new perspective on the past. This is probably truer in the case of Mary Pickford than almost any figure in the arts of the 20th century. I recently commented on another website during a discussion of the MPI funding controversy, and you can find those comments (hopefully) here:

And I've written several essays on Mary Pickford at my site:

Peggy Dymond Leavey said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I visited your blog and was truly amazed at the depth of your knowledge of Mary Pickford's story. The photos and movie stills are wonderful! I will be back!