Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Million Dollar Baby

I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever seen her looking so glamourous.

Today marks an interesting anniversary in Hollywoodland - on this day just 98 years ago, this fetching creature signed the film colony's first million-dollar contract, one that made her for a while not only the most famous woman in the world, but also one its richest.  Unlike many of her coevals, she was a canny businesswoman, and while she may have died six decades later in many ways a wreck, she was still a very wealthy lady.

The name Mary Pickford doesn't usually conjure up images of Art Moderne sleekness, but it's interesting to see how well she carries it off.  Her trademark curls, though, suited her even better, and without them there was always something just a little off about her stardom. It wouldn't have been possible for her to carry off Little Mary much longer than she did, and if nothing else she gave posterity one gift:  having proved that if she'd cared to, she could have gone on in talkies, she retired and never looked back.  Her own life may have come to have had more than a whiff of the Grand Guignol to it, but in her work we can appreciate her at her best, unalloyed by any unwise late-in-life returns - no Lady in a Cage or Flesh Feast for her, and thank goodness for that.

There are any number of lessons and cautionary tales in the life of the onetime Gladys Smith, turned America's Sweetheart and Queen of the Movies, kids, but today's, especially, is clear: get those promises in writing, baby, and then invest.  You never know when you're going to need it, no matter how perfectly matched your pearls...


  1. Love that photo - even if, in profile, she bears more than a passing resemblance to Buster Keaton in a wig... Jx

  2. She did almost return once. She desired to play the mother role in the film version of Life with Father but the studio went with Irene Dunne for her box office value. A cruel irony I'm sure for someone who was once the undisputed queen of same. While Dunne was customarily fine in the part it's a shame that Mary didn't get a crack at the role, surely a more worthy swan song than Crawford, Veronica Lake, Anita Page etc.

  3. What a great shot! And Jon, of course, is completely right.

    1. It is a surprisingly... austere... profile, come to think of it. Have they ever been seen in one place, Keaton and Pickford?