England's Kevin Brownlow brings to life America's Sweetheart, Mary Pickford, in this richly textured and insightful book featuring a myriad of lush and rare photographs chosen by Pickford expert Robert Cushman. Mary Pickford's contribution to cinema is seen in a new light here. Brownlow subtly makes the case that she not only was the most influential woman in the history of cinema, but a visionary force for the film industry itself.
It is difficult in today's climate of instant access to information to understand just how popular Mary Pickford was in her day. She was embraced by the entire world, and reportedly, every twenty four hours, 12 1/2 million people saw her on screen. She perfected her craft in an era of film when very few people actually saw her natural acting style for the hard work and genius it was. George Cukor called her the first method actor.
Mary Pickford's career as an actress spanned decades. She did much for women with her strong business savvy and the roles she not only portrayed, but created. A very practical woman by all accounts, her films themselves reflected our better side as human beings and were often sentimental in tone. She didn't play weak characters as many of her contemporaries did. When people walked out of the theatre after seeing a Pickford film, they were often uplifted, feeling generous towards their fellowman.
Brownlow has done a wonderful job bringing Mary Pickford to life as a three dimensional human being. With all the rare and beautiful photographs here to distract you it would have been easy to have an uninspiring text. But the introduction by Cushman, and the lengthy and insightful comments by Brownlow, which includes comments on each Pickford film, make this a mesmerizing journey into a life, both on film, and off.
There were many things about Mary the public knew, such as the famous Pickfair and her celebrated marriage to Douglas Fairbanks and their friendship with Charlie Chaplin. They knew little of a young girl who virtually had no childhood. Before her career finally took off she was poor in the extreme, sleeping in a chair so long it would take quite some time after owning a bed before she could sleep in any other position.
Some knew of her first marriage to actor Owen Moore, but few knew he was an abusive alcoholic who would drive Mary to seek comfort with actor and director James Kirkwood. They certainly didn't know that in 1917, at the height of her fame, Mary almost committed suicide. Though these aspects of Mary's life are only touched upon and not dealt with in depth, it is admirable they are here at all, separating this from other coffee table books.
The photographs are so stunningly beautiful (some never before seen) you may have trouble concentrating on the text. Of particular note are photographs on pages 110, 65, 17, 12, 27, 154, 121, and 66. They are not to be missed.
This lush and informative book, filled with affection for it's subject and augmented by rare and breathtaking photographs, is a must own for anyone who loves film. It's overall perspective of America's Sweetheart, and ultimately the world's sweetheart, Mary Pickford, is unmatched. Pick this one up today!