Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)
There were no movie stars in Hollywood before Mary Pickford (ca. 1892-1979) came along and became one. Born in Canada and raised as a child stage actor, Pickford and her family moved to Manhattan so she could make it on Broadway. After her last play closed in 1909, Pickford decided to try out the motion pictures and landed a small part with D. W. Griffith’s short-film company Biograph. Exhibiting a phenomenally dedicated work ethic, Pickford acted in fifty-one short films during her first year with Biograph. She created the virtuous yet sassy girl-next-door archetype that would make her a household name.
Before she came along, there were no actor credits in films for fear of inflating egos and salaries. Pickford knew her value, though, and made sure those credits appeared—and in the process, invented the Hollywood star. She studio jumped, each time getting a substantial pay raise equal to the highest-paid male star’s, until she became the first actor in history to become a millionaire. Then Pickford pulled the ultimate power play: she formed her own studio, United Artists, with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, and their best friends, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith. As America’s first movie sweetheart, Pickford was savvy enough to leave her name off the executive producer and director credits in order to play to the public’s perception of her as a sweet, innocent young girl, but industry insiders knew that she called all the shots.
Pickford won her first Academy Award in her first talkie, Coquette. She also used her star power for philanthropy, selling eighteen billion dollars in Liberty Bonds during World War I, cofounding the Motion Picture Relief Fund, and establishing a foundation that still supports the preservation of film and provides scholarships for education today. She essentially invented star power.