In addition to the big and small screens from which we come to discover them, celebrities routinely grace everything from magazines covers to beauty products. While our growing fascination with movie stars is commonplace, was it always so? And if not, when, and most importantly, who was the illustrious screen performer to herald the cult of the movie star as we know it?
Incidentally, the first “celebrity” was a product of our very nation. Née Gladys Louise Smith, this Torontonian first took to the Broadway stage at the tender age of 11, marking the beginning of an illustrious career spanning 55 feature films, 141 shorts, a worldwide following – something never before seen in the silent film era of the 1920s – a bevy of product endorsements, and unbeknownst to many, remarkable business acumen in a male-dominated field on the part of this astute actress, producer, and co-founder of United Artists and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. This industry trailblazer was Mary Pickford.
In tribute to the invaluable legacy of the late Canadian iconic film star, often referred to as “America’s Sweetheart” , this summer, the McCord Museum, in collaboration with TIFF presents, Mary Pickford and the Invention of the Movie Star. The exhibition chronicles the pint-size screen actress and one of Hollywood’s most powerful women of her day’s ascension to superstardom from her humble beginnings in Toronto. Culled from the archives of the Rob Brooks Mary Pickford Collection and the TIFF Film Reference Library, a selection of 209 objects, from original movie posters, photographs, products, which Pickford endorsed or created under her eponymous cosmetics line, to clothing pieces that belonged to this elected fashion icon of the day, are displayed within a movie-theatre style room, and bear testament to Pickford’s incomparable contribution to the industry, and her cultural icon status, equal to that of her better known contemporaries, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. Visitors are also privy to clips from the films that marked Pickford’s 27-year career, presented as they were during that momentous decade.
Mary Pickford and the Invention of the Movie Star runs from May 3 to October 8, 2012. For films buffs eager to further delve into the world of Mary Pickford, McCord Museum will be holding screenings of two of her best films, Stella Maris (1918), and My Best Girl (1927), on July 7, and September 1 at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. Furthermore, McCord Museum in partnership with the Cinémathèque québécoise will hold special screenings of The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), and Sparrows (1926), at 6h30pm on September 14th, and September 21st respectively, where pianist Gabriel Thibaudeau will play the accompanying score. It’s a show not to be missed!
All photos courtesy of the McCord Museum.