I had the pleasure of watching a terrific documentary: Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies (Cinema Libre, out June 19) that so impressed me that I wanted to say a few words about it.
Long before Julia Roberts, Pickford was crowned “America’s Sweetheart” and this documentary wonderfully reveals her life story. Filmmakers Nicholas Eliopoulos (director) and Elizabeth Wood Coldicutt (producer) have done an excellent job assembling archival footage, old interviews with Pickford friends and even sound recordings of Pickford interviews. It’s not surprising that it has been a hit on the film festival circuit.
Besides telling Pickford’s particular story, the film also provides an informative look at the rise of American cinema from the silent era and into the early talkies. Pickford not only was one of the top stars of her time, but also rather a revolutionary woman in her own way. On top of her acting career, she wrote scripts and even apparently some directing (although uncredited). Pickford helped to start United Artists (the first studio run by artists, including Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith) and was instrumental in the founding of the Motion Picture Academy and, in later years, the Academy’s retirement home. She had a keen eye for talent too as she brought director Ernest Lubitsch to America (although they had a stormy work relationship) and wanted to make a young Walt Disney a partner in United Artists, but her partners shot down this idea. The archival photographs of Pickford and Mickey Mouse for a never-made Alice In Wonderland movie are among the cool material in this movie. There is also a rare clip of Pickford talking with Amelia Earhart and Pickford starring with her then husband Douglas Fairbanks in their first talky, The Taming of the Shrew.
For anyone interested in film history, this is a must-see movie.