cover image Mary Pickford: America's Sweetheart

Mary Pickford: America's Sweetheart

Scott Eyman. Dutton Books, $19.95 (342pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-147-1

Far superior to many movie star biographies, Eyman's portrait absorbs us in the life and times of a woman who, in his view, was at least 70 years ahead of her time. Pickford was born Gladys Smith in 1893 in Canada; she began her acting career as a child to support her widowed mother, sister and brother. In extreme poverty the family moved to New York City where impresario David Belasco gave the curly-haired girl the name that became world renowned. Playing innocent if mischievous roles in the silents, Pickford earned another sobriquet, ``tough little mick,'' striking hard bargains offscreen. Hers was always the decisive voice in United Artists, the company she formed with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks. Although Eyman ( Flashback ) emphasizes Pickford's achievements, he also records her failings--bigotry, alcoholism, her part in causing the marital break with Fairbanks. Included also are vignettes about many film folk, among them Buddy Rogers, who was Pickford's husband from 1937 until her death in 1979 at age 86. (Mar.)