The Life of Mary Pickford
Part II. — The More Intimate Mary Pickford
YOU were about to tell me," I reminded Mary Pickford at the beginning of our second talk, which took place, by the way, in the Alpine Inn up at the top of Mount Lowe, “of something which when you were a mere girl in San Francisco changed the entire tenor of your life. What was it?”
Instead of answering that question. Miss Pickford asked me another. Altitude, obviously, had a tendency to detach one’s mind from the earthlier preoccupations of every day life.
“Do you believe with Browning that somewhere, at some time, every life has its one big hour?”
“Do you suppose,” I inquired, taking my cue from Little Mary and proffering still a third question, “he could have been thinking of that particular midnight hour when he was about to elope with Elizabeth Barrett Browning? Doesn’t he somewhere tell how his wife-to-be was stealing
on tiptoe from her father’s home with her maid and her dog, and how she had a very terrible time in keeping the dog from barking?”
“And supposing he had barked!” continued the rapt-eyed agent of other people’s emotion. “Supposing he’d kept Elizabeth Bafrett from getting away and going off to Italy and being re-born as she was and finding the career we know she found under those new conditions!”
“And supposing,” I went on in the same strain, “Thomas Carlyle had ™one into business that time, as he trembled on the verge of doing. And Stevenson had be-
“What,” ƒ asked Mary Pickford, “did Canada give you?” “There’s one big thing Canada gave me,” ivas the answer. “It’s what I suppose you’d call the zest of life. It may seem a sort of paradox, but it made me rich by what it denied me. It brought me into the world without a silver spoon in my mouth, but it taught me the lesson which the sterner laws of the North always seem to teach its sons and daughters, that you must look ahead and not think only of the passing moment, that bigness should belong to your own life as well as to the map of your own country, and that if you come from the land of the beaver you should always be happy in working like a beaver!”
come an engineer, as he came so close to doing?”
“And supposing Keats had come to America,” went on my colleague in speculative reminiscence, “as he once said he had decided to do! Supposing he had come out here in his youth, that time, and this balmy Western air had healed up his sick lungs, and he’d lived to give the world all the music that was cut short by that terribly untimely death of his? What a richer world this might have been ! And what a book somebody could write about those little Great Divides in the lives of men and women!”
“And just supposing a little Toronto tot named Gladys Mary Smith hadn’t been taken to a cake-walk one day,” I began.
“The world would be going around about the same,” commented the mournful-eyed queen who didn’t seem overjoyed at her memories of regal accomplishment.
“But that at least brings
us back to Gladys Mary and San Francisco,” I reminded her, “and the Rubicon Gladys Mary crossed there.”
“I’m afraid , you could never make my little Rubicon very impressive to the eye,” explained Miss Pickford.
“Why not?” I asked, remembering that any Rubicon must be impressive, not because of its dimensions, but more because of the decision it witnessed.
“Because it was chiefly a subjective one,” said the best known woman in the world, re-echoing my own mental conclusion. “As I said before, I was still playing in one of my juvenile parts in one of Hal Reid’s melodramas. Do you know what they were like?”
‘‘I know the things,” I retorted. And the contempt in my voice caused Mary Pickford to look up quickly.
“Don’t say anything unkind about them, please,” begged Little Mary. And more than once during our talks I noticed this reluctance to sit in judgment on others, to pass votes of censure on rivals, to complain of conditions or prod at powers with which the star herself was associated. It was, I think, something more deep-seated than the mere discretion of imperial position; it was based on a kindliness which time and toil had not eradicated from a girl kindly by nature.
“That awakening came one afternoon through . a talk with another woman, a talk in a dingy litti« dressingroom. The w o ,m a n ’ s name was Jean Patriquin. She was an older actress, playing in the same company with me. She disliked me—at least she disliked me at first. I knew this, because I overheard her say, in speaking of me: ‘Oh, that
i o u s siagekid!’ It hurt.
It startled me, too, like a shake when you’re asleep.
And I resented it, in my blind and childish way.
I went to her to have it out, in some manner or other
for stage-life is terribly confined and competitive, and even the stagechild soon learns to stand on guard, jealously on guard, over her own little territory.
“We had it out, Jean Patriquin and I, but in a way very different to the way I had expected. We sat down and talked things over. I woke up to the fact that I didn’t know so very much, compared with that older woman, and that I was facing a woman who knew life, who had an infinitely broader vision of
things than I had. She awakened something in my soul, something that had been sleeping thdre like a seed. She became, in fact, personally and directly interested ir. me. She made me unhappy and restless and ambitious for better things. And from that day on I started to study. I mean I started to study in earnest, with a real hunger for knowledge. And Jean Patriquin guided me. I wanted to improve, to be different. Instead of having three pet kittens to play with on the houseorchestra’s piano keyboard, I suddenly realized I ought to be able to play on that keyboard with my own fingers.
“You know what stage people are like, I think, about as well as I do. You know that they’re the most naive and self-conscious, the most obstinate and generous, the most sensitive and insensible, the most clever and yet the most contracted guild of workers in all the wide world. And it was no little battle to break away from those old ways of thinking and living. But the seed had sprouted and I couldn’t stop its growth. I struggled with French verbs, between performances. I kept my kittens off the piano keyboard and played finger-exercises there instead.
took music lessons in earnest, and insisted on a tutor. I studied in the wings, and boarding-house rooms, and in dressing rooms, and on station platforms and
railway trains. And I showed Jean Patriquin that I wanted to be something more than just a precocious kid-actress.”
T COULD catch the flash of that highlight along the dark corridor of adolescence, the still groping mind emerging into its earliest consciousness of power. “Does that mean,” I inquired, “that you ran away from the old-fashioned melodramas?”
Miss Pickford smiled.
“No; the change didn’t come in a night. Life, you see, isn’t quite as dramatic as the story-books and the screen-pictures. I had to keep on, for a time at least, at those old melodramas, with the old bad parts. And by this time I could realize that they were bad parts. I wasn’t satisfied with them any longer. I grew into a realization that there were better things and that I’d been missing them. This didn’t altogether add to my happiness. Night after night I used to hear the audience laughing, and I knew they were laughing at me, laughing at me derisively, without sympathy, without understanding why I was there or what I wanted to be. I used to stand with my hands shut tight and my jaw clenched, with a kind of hatred in my heart for those audiences. They seemed to be so cruelly misjudging
“But wasn’t this mostly imaginátion?” I suggested.
“The audiences of those day s,” observed 'the still youthful historian bes i d e me, “were more outspoken than they are now, more elementary. They had the habit of letting the villian know that they hated him, of hissing and booing the actors they weren’t i r sympathy with. And I on my part got the habit of looking out at them and saying to my own soul : ‘Just you wait! Wait! And some day I’ll show ^ you!’ For my
parts weren’t the sympathetic parts in those days and I’d reached the stage when it hurt, hurt tragically, to be laughed at that way. It drove me into making a vow that some day I’d win over that big ogre known as the public. I swore to myself that I’d never give up until I’d turned the tables on them. And I did, in the end. It didn’t come, of course, exactly in the way I’d expected it to. That’s how life fools us. But it came in another way.”
I nodded my comprehension. It
was an early ebullition, 1 sagely told myself, of that Pickfordian ambition which was not to be denied and that Pickfordian power which was not to be suppressed. But in that I was mistaken, as I was very soon to discover.
“When did you first turn to the moving pictures?” I inquired.
“It was in 1909,” was the reply.
And I looked up to find Little Mary smiling, for, as I was so quickly to find out, Miss Pickford did not turn from the stage to the screen as a languid Nero turns from one pageant to another. The movement was much more like that of an exhausted swimmer snatching at a lifebuoy, with little that was stately or imperial about it.
This story of how Our Mary broke into the movies has been told in many versions and with many embellishments, and the straight truth, I am afraid, will come as a bit of a shock to those persons who make a habit of sacrificing verity on the altar of romance. But the Pickford family, be it recorded, had been “on the road” with the previously mentioned Chauncey 01cott company. I write the word “family” advisedly, for when Mary went on the road in those early days, it was essential, of course, that her mother should go along with her. And it was equally essential, under the circumstances, that Lottie, who was two years younger than Mary, and Jack, who was the baby, should be taken along with their mother. It was a condition which involved sacrifice, and entailed discomfort, but when Little Mary, the breadwinner, moved from place to place that itinerant little family circle moved with her, constituting a triangle of sustaining guardianship which easily enough merged into a quadrangle of companionable adventuring. Thus when Mary became “Little Eva” in her “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” company, Mrs. Pickford went along first as wardrobe-mistress and later played the part of “Eliza.” And night by night, when Eliza made her escape over the ice, it was baby Jack whom she carried in her arms, with the baying of the property blo&d-hounds drowning his vigorous though infantile cries of protest. But, to resume, the season of the Olcott company on the road ended, as seasons have the habit of doing. Thereupon the Pickford family, as theatrical families also have the habit of doing, returned to New York to cast about for a new engagement for Little Mary. A humble abode was found up in the Bronx. Agencies wei'e consulted, the managers’ offices were visited, the old and much-trodden tracks of the theatrical aspirant were explored and re-explored. But for once the star of Mary Pickford was not in the ascendant. The carefully guarded savings of the road-trip began to dwindle. The summer grew old; the producers made ready for the opening season. Still there was no
engagement for Mary Pickford. The younger sister, Lottie, it is true, began to show talent as a dancer about this time and even “signed up” with a none too resplendent company. But the pay was trivial and the engagement proved short. Finally, in that little home of overstrained hope up in the Bronx, the last of the season’s savings were gone, the last with the exception of one tragic and lonesome nickel. Mary Pickford studied that solitary coin of baser metal for some time. Then she took a deep breath and went to her mother.
“Mother,” she announced, “I’m going to gamble our nickel!”
“How?” demanded a parent much too worried for frivolity.
“On the movies,” was Mary’s answer.
THE mother shook her head. “It’s no use,” she declared. It was not the first time the topic of entering the motionpicture field had cropped up between mother and daughter. The movies of nine or ten years ago were not the movies of to-day. They were still in their infancy, and the infant age is the age of
exclusions a n d prohibitions, of stair-gates and chicken-wire and barricaded i n -gresses. They were as averse to the reception of untried talent as they were to the entertainment of new ideas. And they were not always thought respectable.
“Then I’m going down to make sure,” said Little Mary, commandeering the nickel.
“And how will you get home?” demanded her mother as she witnessed that appropriation.
“I’ll decide that when I get my job,” was the blithe retort.
“But supposing you don’t get a job?” persisted the woman who knew life much better than did the slender-limbed girl with the nickel in her hand and the fire of revolt in her eye.
Mary the irrepressible laughed.
“Then I’ll hoof it home,” she announced. She announced it quite bravely, with her shoulders back. But she gulped a little as she passed that lonely little ultimate coin in through the wicket for her subway ticket. It would be a nine-mile walk back, and the heat of midsummer still lurked in the heavy and humid September sea-air of Manhattan. But she buckled on that invisible armor-plate in which many a timorous genius has cuirassed herself for the storming of Broadway, and headed straight for the Biograph offices. It was the old Biograph Studios, Miss Pickford explained, and even before she crossed that sacred portal she couldn’t help think-
ing what a long walk it would be up to the Bronx. Then her heart sank. For on the inner side of that threshold she found . herself in a waiting-room crowded with girls, all of them just as eager and ambitious as she was herself, and many of them much more magnificent as to outward apparel.
BUT there was a difference. It was hidden perhaps, behind the tired eyes and the slightly frayed little frock and the pallid cheek from which the Subwayair had taken the last of the color. But it was there, as inextinguishable as the spark of true genius. And that weary and nervous and over-worked official whose task it was to pick out the “extra people” for the old Biograph Studios had not said twenty words to the hollowcheeked girl from the Bronx before he spotted that difference.
“You, kid, I’ll want you,” he announced with a nod of approval.
Whereupon Mary, with the iron hoops of anxiety loosed from her heart, smiled. She smiled for the simple reason that she couldn’t help smiling. And you, gentle reader or sour-mapped reader, or whatever you may be, you very well know by this time what that Mary Pickford smile is like. It made the Biograph man stop and meditatively scratch his ear. “And instead of working with those extras, I guess I can slip you in at a real jób. Be back here at ten in the morning. Next, there!”
But Mary lingered. “A real job?” she somewhat tremulously repeated. The man nodded his head, and moved down the line. Mary followed him. “Say, what do you want, anyway?” he curtly demanded as he bumped into her for the second time.
“I want a slight advance on that pay envelope, please.”
“Advance? What d’you want an advance for?”
“So I won’t have to hoof it home,” acknowledged Mary. And she got it, in the end. She went out of the old Biograph Studios not only a movie-actress but also the possessor of a nice new uncrinkled ten dollar bill. And the ironic part of it all was that Little Mary hoofed it every bit of the way up to the Bronx, after all. She walked home because she was so proud of that bill and was so anxious to carry it back to her mother unbroken !
Ï REALIZED, during a later visit to the 1 Mary Pickford Studios, that the making of moving pictures is not the simple process I had once imagined it to be. I wakened up to this fact after I beheld Little Mary hasten from a “glass stage” to a projecting room, and from there hurry on to a conference with her confidante and scenario-writer, Miss Francis Marion, and then on to another pow-wow of some sort with one of her secretaries. Down that row of cell-like offices humming with work I meandered as abstracted and out of place as an Apache in a munition factory, remembering how I had once thought that this airy business of producing a film was about as simple a matter as the mixing up of a cake-batter, the only disturbingly weighty question being the final decision as to whether it should be a two-layer or a five-layer product. There light and frivolous by-products of our civilization known as photoplays, I vaguely imagined, were something tossed together and stirred up and turned out to
the public as expeditiously as the waffleman on the street-corner turns out his urban confections.
But I was wrong. I knew little about the long and patient quest for “location,” the contentious carpentering together of sets and the laborious building-up of backgrounds, the equally laborious study of casts and continuity, the assembling of actors, extras and props, the interminable rehearsals and the never-ending re-takes. Little did I dream that the behind-doors conducting of a five-reel accouchment was about as complicated a bit of business as the conducting of a Presidential election. Little did I know of the staffs involved, of the armies behind the army in front of the camera, of the stern necessity for some final authority to marshal and control a bewildering array of agents and activities, each one seemingly meaningless by itself. For the more serious five-reeler is built up minute block by block, out of more or less rough-hewn scenes which have to be assembled and chronologized and trimmed down and swept with the cement-brush of continuity—the latter, by the way, a very potent and a very comprehensive word in the modern movieplant—since one small fraction of “Reel One” may be taken in a certain place and setting, and at the same time and place certain fragments of “Reel Two,” “Three,” “Four” or “Five,” may also be “shot,” and shot out of their turn and their story-setting, to be laid aside like rough-quarried stone to await the final assembling of the structure.
TN the meantime, however, I was being
introduced to another and an equally amazing condition of motion-picture life, and that was the correspondence of a popular star. This is a recognized branch of the business with a recognized official in charge. For if Mary Pickford attended personally to all her own mail it would give her time for neither screen-work nor meals nor sleep. And her time, mark you. is already sufficiently occupied, for her day begins at ten sharp in the morning and continues until noon, with a dodge home in the car for luncheon if her makeup is not too pronounced, or a hurried bite or two in the studio if costume and greasepaint are not to be discarded. Then back to work again for the afternoon, lasting much later than the hour when the tired business man shuts up his roll-top and totters off to club or teeing-green, anu many a night back again to the studios to inspect what the projecting-room has to show, or to consult with the powers-thutbe as to the next picture or with the adept Miss Marion as to the fashioning of the next vehicle. Yet in the face of all this Mary Pickford’s prime idea of luxury is to be in bed by nine o’clock at night. And no star can do that and at the same time attend personally to her mail when it averages some five hundred letters every day of the week, not to mention elaborately and ingeniously concocted petitions for the appropriation of generous slices of that star’s patrimony, nor to overlook divers gorgeous silk “undies” donated by manufacturers who prove themselves designing in the double sense of the word, and the sundry cold creams and face lotions and tooth-powders from generous chemists anxious for a line or two of free advertising, and the masterpieces from modest authors who stand ready to rehabilitate Our Mary by at last providing her with a fit and proper vehicle.
Then there are the requests for photographs. This struck me as both a remarkable and significant part of the busi-
ness, since every decent petition for a picture of Mary Pickford is taken seriously, is dated and filed and duly acted on. When these requests come at the rate of several hundred a day it transforms what at first might be accepted as a compliment into a somewhat serious obligation. The result was that I found myself confronted by a stack of Mary Pickford photographs that made me think of a pile of cordwood, a pile almost as high as my head, each picture mounted and in its mailing-envelope, waiting to be addressed and stamped by a very hard-working secretary’s under-secretary.
That daily avalanche of letters, of course, is sifted and sorted, so that the goats, as it were, may be separated from the sheep. The smaller number of a more significant or personal nature are laid before Miss Pickford herself, to be duly acknowledged and answered, constituting a subsidiary industry to fill in any spare chinks of time in an already overcrowded day. On this particular day, for instance, there was a letter from Singapore, one from Manilla, and one all the way from South Africa. The Christmas season, oddly enough, brings its own shower of characteristic letters, mostly from children with a romanticized conception of a motion-picture star’s Olympian possibilities of dispensation, solemn requests for automobiles and ponies and college expenses and party-gowns and husbands and air-ships.
I STARED at the serried rows of corres* pondencc, at the envelopes inscribed with all manner of handwriting and decorated with all kinds and colors of stamps, and it came home to me how the ever-enduring hero-worship of mankind has its own particular channel for its own particular age.
“You may smile at my taking these letters of mine so seriously,” said Miss Pickford with a hand-wave towards the epistolary cordwood, “but perhaps you don’t understand them as I do. You see, they are a perpetual reminder that I am more or less a public person.”
“Five hundred letters a day ought to bring home some such suspicion,” I assented.
“But that merely brings up the other point,” persisted Miss Pickford, with her habitual little frown of studiousness. “Those letters also prove that I’m a particular sort of public person. We needn’t talk about what makes me that. It may be the parts I’ve played. It may be an accident. Or it may be just me. But my public accepts me as typifying innocent American girlhood. I don’t need to point that out to you, do I?”
“Indeed you don’t” I acknowledged, remembering the five hundred letters a day and the subliminal idolatry which expressed itself in the Mary Pickford queues before the ticket-windows of modern playhouses and the Mary Pickford curls about the brow of modern Miss America.
“Well, when you know you’re a sort of model to whom so many hundreds of thousands of girls look up, don’t you see how it leaves you with a responsibility that becomes pretty solemn, the more you think over it?”
“You mean this business of being an ideal for the young?” I asked, contemplating the slight figure on whom was imposed the solemn task of mothering a million.
“It’s not a business,” corrected Miss Pickford. “It’s the very opposite to that!
Continued on page 98
The Life of Mary Pickford
Continued from page 22
For if you think about it you will realize that the work I do may serve to amuse the older people who see it, but it actually mouldn the younger people. They absorb what they see on the screen. Their emotions are touched, and what they sympathize with in their moments of emotional upheaval is incorporated in their ideals of conduct. They want to be like the heroines they love. So if I’m a sort of ideal to those young girls I can’t talk with or reason with, they’re going to be impressed by anything they hear about me, by anything and everything I do or they think I do. And doesn’t it seem natural and reasonable to claim that I owe it to them to do the right thing?”
“Of course,” I agreed, a little amazed at this frank and lucid explanation of a situation which had quite escaped me. It Was a case of the divinity that doth hedge a king, the necessity for seemliness in those who occupy positions of imperial importance, the demand for dignity from
a President, the craving for queenliness and nothing but queenliness from a queen.
“Don’t run away with the impression that I want to walk through life wearing a halo,” admonished Miss Pickford as I somewhat blunderingly tried to explain myself. “But I mean something much more important, on the other hand, than merely living up to appearance. I was simply trying to show you that if a number of things combined to make me what I think you said 1 was, the best known girl in America--”
“In the world,” I interrupted.
“Very well, in the world. Then I owe it to that same world not to disappoint them. I’ve a sort of obligation to live up to what they expect of me. And that’s the one big thing, I think, in my work, the thing that turns me into something more than a Pagliacci in petticoats. It gives me a mission in life, for it’s the one way in w’hich I feel I can really do a little good. I mean that if thousands and thousands of girls have faith in me, it’s my duty to justify that faith. I can’t, of course, talk to them, or preach to them, or moralize to them. They don’t even want to be moralized at. The only way I can reach them is through my pictures. What they get from me they get accidentally, and when you’re young it’s the accidental word that sinks the deepest. There’s something sustaining, too, in remembering all this. It tends to leave hard work and tired nerves more worth while, more endurable. It dignifies existence for you. Then, too, by keeping my own life simple and clean and wholesome I’m really influencing the lives of all those unseen audiences, influencing them for good without their being quite conscious of it.”
X/TARY PICKFORD plays, I remembered, were always what the profession called “clean” plays. Whatever their shortcomings, I acknowledged, they were never called upon to face the charge of being vicious.
“There are some critics, as you suggest,” went on Miss Pickford, “who don’t always like my pictures. Some of them accuse me of trying to be an ingenue all the time. Some of them criticize the plays I appear in because, as they say, these plays harp on the note of girlish innocence.”
“Girlish innocence,” I protested, “is one of the most beautiful things in life. But it is not all of life.”
“Of course it isn’t, but it’s a part of life, you’ll find, which most people want to see pictured on the screen. Yet some critics suggest that I step out into heavy drama, that I give them a sample of what I can do in the stormy and tragic parts, without seeming to remember that the moment I stepped over into the vampire roles, for instance, I’d be divorcing myself from the one serious influence which I can wield through my work.”
“But would those vampire parts ever appeal to you?” I asked.
“I’m afraid I couldn’t leave my sense of humor in the check-room, and that would mean making a terrible muddle of most of the sloe-eyed sorceress procedure. But there’s a tradition, you know, that all comediennes want to play tragedy, and I suppose I’ve had a fleck or two from that same tar-brush. That’s why in a way I was so glad to do the part of ‘Unity’ in Stella Maris. It gave me something to get my teeth into. I worked very hard over that part, for I knew I had something to work with. And I liked it. But my own tastes, you see, aren’t the important feature of the situation. The vital thing, it seems to
me, is what I can do best, what I can do that is truest to my own character. That,” added Miss Pickford as she picked up a magazine from the table, “is what makes me so indignant at a page like this. It’s so untrue. It’s so unjust. It’s so cynical and superficial in its smartness.”
I took the magazine and looked at the page in question. I knew that magazine and I knew its editor. I knew its pastelposter cover of three naked nymphs with a fleece of cheese-cloth about their BurneJones limbs prancing across a mustardgreen meadow. It was derivative stuff, transplanted straight from Munich and Vienna. It was the floss candy kind of stuff that was enervating America when the bugles of war suddenly shook the perfumed cigarette-smoke out of her clubs and studios. I saw a page of “movie” drawings, humorous cartoons enlarging on the idea that motion-picture actresses, unlike the actresses of the legitimate stage, never run true to form, never prove in real life what they are on the screen. One picture showed the screen vampire in specks, knitting socks, while another picture represented the “Little Eva” screentype as loliing with a cigarette in her hand, half-drunk over a cocktail glass in a cabaret.
I happened to know the artist who drew those pictures. He had been a groceryclerk, and besides weighing out prunes and sugar, had designed the weekly array of display-cards. Then he went to Paris on a cattle boat, lived cheap, worked hard, returned to New York, married a model, rented a flat, and had a baby. Then he had another baby. He made, and was still making, his living out of the “vamp” type on paper, forever drawing sloe-eyed and sleazy demimondaine ladies—quite often with a baby on his knee as he worked— and keeping the pot boiling by exploiting the urban phases of deviltry with which he never mixed—thereby exemplifying the very irony of existence which his own Frenchified cartoons attempted to ridi-
"Just at present,” explained Miss Pickford, “I’m pretty actively interested in Red Cross work. That man would claim, of course, that I’m doing this work because my press-agent tells me to, because it’s good publicity. And that would be untrue. I do that work because I want to, because I’ve a heart and head of my own, and realize it’s my duty at a time like this. It took me up to San Francisco a few weeks ago, and only last week it took me down to San Diego. I was told that I oughtn’t to take the time. But I insisted. The pictures could wall. The boys at Camp Kearney couldn’t
I had heard of that visit of Mary Pickford to Camp Kearney, where Little Mary had formally adopted a battalion of the California Artillery about to leave for the front, and after officially reviewing the 143rd Regiment of Field Artillery, had made what a solemn-eyed New York editor had described to be as “the best little speech I ever heard a woman deliver, straight-forward, appropriate, and full of honest feeling.”
TT was the director’s call that put a stop to our talk. There was a scene to be “shot.” It is not permitted me to describe that scene in detail since the more ambitious producing concerns have acquired the habit of late of working in secrecy. One reason why the Verboten sign is hung across the studio door is
the fact that paid agents, in the guise of harmless sightseers, spied out company secrets and betrayed them to rival com panies. But one thing that impressed me as Miss Pickford faced the camera was the sudden and unthinking transformation of character on her part. In almost the flash of an eye the Jekyll vanished and the Hyde asserted itself, unwilled, apparently, and without effort. It reminded me of the dualism of the artist of that multiple personality which can be packed away in one body. For I had witnessed an ingenuous and sensitive girl suddenly translated into an adroit and far-seeing artist. I was reminded, too, of the mental strain involved in the making of a big picture, the mental strain unknown to the general public that sits before the finished product. That strain, Miss Pickford acknowledged to me had in a recent picture been sustained for twenty-three hours without a break, most of it being “seastuff” when the company, wet and chilled for hours at a time, had to fall back on black coffee for stimulation. And aí another time I encountered Miss Pickford with eye-glasses on, and an eyedropper and what looked like a bottle of boracic acid in her hand. “This is because I’ve been having too many interior scenes lately,” she explained. “The lights throw off particles of carbon, they tell me. At any rate they irritate the eyelids, as you see. But it doesn’t last. It’s not important—if you don’t mind the looks of these head-lamps! It’s merely one of the little drawbacks of our line of work. It’s what we get instead of writer’s cramp!”
So I was tempted to say as Miss Pick ford came off at the end of her scene: “It’s hard work, isn’t it?”
Mary Pickford laughed. “I’ve done harder,” she said with the Jekyll and Hyde once more turning somersaults in one small body. She stopped on the way to the little bungalow dressing-room to whisper something extremely secret and confidential into the ear of a little towheaded child-actress who had slipped up to Mary’s side with adoration in her eyes and a doll under her arms.
"Just think what that little tot has still ahead of her!” soliloquized Mary as she peered after the departing figure of the child with the doll.
“You mean the big things of life?”
“Yes, the big things of life.”
“Don’t you feel they’re still ahead of you ?”
Mary laughed. Then discretion dropped like a curtain across the still smil-
“When you begin to hold post mortems over the days that have passed away you can’t help feeling that old age is creeping on you! And I’m doing that now, for I’m writing my own life.”
“I shouldn’t he in too great a hurry
“I don’t Intend doing it in a hurry,” acknowledged Miss Pickford, “but I’m twenty-four, and if all the big things in life don’t happen before that age, a few of them have at least happened to me. For instance, marriage is a big thing, and I have been married.”
“That was to Owen Moore, wasn’t it?"
“And several years ago?”
“Yes.” There was a silence of several seconds.
I was not so obtuse as to ignore that silence. All lives, I remembered,
had their reservations, their sanctum sanctorum into which the intrusions of outsiders are not encouraged. So it was really a triumph of character, this power of Mary’s thus passively to compel recognition of those reserves,just as she so continuously compels recognition, without painfully high polish, of the fineness of the grain in the entire character’s make-up. But it is a matter of record ind common enough knowledge that at the young and tender age of seventeen Mary Pickford took the running broadjump into matrimony. It amounted to practically a runaway match, for it is probably the first and the last step which Little Mary took without the advice of her mother. There is even a tenacious but ridiculous studio tradition that Mary was taken over the maternal knee and soundly spanked for that escapade, a tradition which melts into absurdity before any knowledge of the true relationship between mother and daughter. Nor was Mary altogether carried away by the romance of the situation when she slipped away with her young leading man and returned a radiant and happy bride of seventeen. This leading man, let it be remembered, was her first. And he was an Irishman, one of a family of more or less famous actors. H« was the possessor of a distinctly Hibernian charm which had its corporeal basis in Irish blue eyes, black hair, and a light and debonair manner. And he not only tumbled head-over-heels in love with Mary but during long and onerous workdays in the studio he was both kind and considerate with the less experienced new-comer. It was Owen Moore, in fact, who schooled Mary Pickford in many of the tricks of the new trade. Even the rest of the company were not ignorant of this Romeo-and-Juliet situation in real life. One shrewd director, indeed, took advantage of that mutual attachment by “bawling out” Owen Moore, when for purely business reasons he desired to produce an expression of anger on Mary’s face. All through the preliminary sets that director nagged and railed at the blue-eyed young Irishman until Mary, who is slow to anger, but rather Vesuvian when the eruption finally comes, could stand it no longer. She turned on that director, a human tigress, and the camera-man of course got busy with his crank and “shot” one of the most effective bits of acting in all Mary’s career.
But the annals of both studio and stage, alas, tend to show that the romantic matches of seventeen are seldom compounded of the fabrics that withstand the acid tests of time and aspiration. Completely as she had surrendered to the romance of that situation, however, Mary remained determinedly practical on certain points. Mary’s salary was to go for the support of herself and her family. Owen’s earnings were to be just as strictly his own. Mary was to go on with her work and Owen was to go on with his. And one was not to hamper the artistic trail of the other.
'T'HE trail of the screen-star, however is not a macadamized road. It cannot be deemed either unfair or ungenerous, I think, to point out what tne world in genera! now knows, that Mary Pickford’s marriage with Owen Moore has not turned out a happy one. Foi several years, while not exactly agreeing to disagree they have at least elected to follow separate paths. And pertinacious Mary, when the world was placid-
ly looking for some legal dissolution of the knot, surprised her friends some three years ago by taking Owen Moore, who is a Roman Catholic, to the Cappristano Mission at San Juan, in California, and there repeating the marriage service before a priest. Yet that double seal on the white page of Mary’s loyalty, I concluded as I looked at this meditativeeyed girl in whom Will would always ride a plumed general before the ranks of Emotion, was as supererogatory as the monogram on her car door.
“You were saying,” I continued, coming back to the theme from which my thoughts must have wandered for a moment or two, “that you regarded marriage as one of the big things in a woman’s life.”
“Don’t you?” asked Mary.
“Of course,” I acknowledged, and the hazel-blue eyes inspected me closely, apparently to make sure that I remained as sincere as was merited by the matter in hand.
“And success, on the other hand, can be an equally big thing in a woman’s career,” continued Miss Pickford. “No, not an equally big thing, but a tremendously absorbing thing. It would be a pose, of course, for me to say that I’ve not been successful, successful at least in certain things. I have, I suppose, in a way. But you know how it is. It’s always the next turn ahead, the view over the next hill-top, the hunger for the height we can’t quite get to.”
Once more, I noticed, the minor note, the wistful undertone, the desire of the moth for the star, the essentially Pickfordian unrest which would always be a spur in the flank of accomplishment.
“Then you don’t regard your work as big?” I demanded.
“What’s the use of talking about my own bigness?” countered the Stella Maris of Hollywood. “I’ve done certain things. I imagine the world knows pretty well what they are. As I've told you before, I’ve succeeded, and I’m not going to be hypocritical enough to scoff at success, for from the time I was a pretty little tot I’ve been working hard for it. But there are some things work won’t bring and money won’t buy. You can’t go to market and carry home contentment or happiness, and every woman has a craving for those things, just as every woman wants love. No work and no profession and no calling can take its place. There’s an ache in every girl’s heart for it. We all demand it, the old-fashioned, simple, honest, human love that keeps the world going on. They tell you that artists should never marry, and that if they do marry they are bound to be unhappy. Somebody even said, didn’t they, that marrying a stage-star is worse than marrying a statue? But stage people, and screen people too, are just as human as the men and women who are housekeeping over there in that row of bungalows with the rose-gardens along the front. Success is good, of course, and, as you said the other day, knowing you’d done a fine piece of work is one of the greatest joys the gods give us. But even that doesn’t take the place of love. I’m afraid I’m rather simple and old-fashioned in this respect.”
“But isn't it rather new-fangled to acknowledge it?”
“Perhaps it is,” replied Miss Pickford, “but women change much less than they imagine. It would be foolish, of course, for me to say I don’t believe in freedom for women and progress for them, but
when they grow out of the need for home life and love they’ll always seem to be growing backward and downward to
“But art is long,” I protested, “and the spirit of the artist is usually a turbulent one, and"—-
“Is it?” demanded Miss Pickford.
“Well, the history of the tribe isn’t altogether a history of happiness,” I proclaimed.
“Isn’t that because we know move about them?” challenged Little Mary. "Life isn’t a bed of roses for anybody, but the everyday man and the everyday woman don't have their little infelicities written about. The more conspicuous a person is the harder it is for them to cling to their natural privacy of life. When tiiere is a romantic interest in such a person, her privacy of life is gone for ever. That is one of the penalties of being a star. A star is a good deal like that giant sequoia in the Mariposa Grove, that has to let stage coaches and motor cars drive right through its heart! Well, we’re like that Wawona tree in the Sierra Nevadas. Tourists feel that they have a right to walk through our souls, or the place where our souls ought to be, and sightseers feel they have the privilege of prodding at our heart’s core with their umbrella ends, and”—
“Wait,” I cried in alarm, “this doesn't mean me, does it?”
“Don’t be egotistical,” reproved Miss Pickford. “I wasn’t thinking of you. 1 was thinking of the old philosopher, whose name I don’t remember, who said a happy people were a people without a
“But I’ve known a number of stage stars who seemed tolerably contented with life,” I observed.
“Of course they were.” agreed Miss Pickford. “For, as you said a while ago, that’s a fine feeling for the artist on the stage to hear the roar of applause at the end of a big scene. It makes up for a lot of the drawbacks. It can warm the blood, like wine; at least it can at first, but the effect w’ears off. In time it becomes a custom, an expected sign, as tame as a chemical reaction.”
“But when you know those people admire you immensely,” I argued, “when you know they adore you”—
“The affection that five hundred people may have for you over the footlights,” cut in Miss Pickford, “is too much like the light that comes from Mars. It hasn’t much warmth left in it. It’s too remote and impersonal to stay with you after the curtain is down and the seats are empty. It doesn’t altogether fill the want, the big want of your heart, for kindly human contact and the voice of someone who can make a house mean Home. . . . But there’s
the call for another scene, and I must be off to my work!”
I stood watching Mary Pickford as she passed down between the towering glassdomed stages to her work. The immensity of the buildings which shadowed that small and fragile figure, the spacious gloom that swallowed her up, reminded me of how complicated was the machinery which was once more catching her up in its busy cogs. I don’t know why, but for a moment as I watched that diminutive and isolated figure beneath the great wall r.gainst which it was silhouetted in the clear Californian sunlight, I thought of a girl-captive in the days of Tiberius passing silently into the Coliseum of the Romans.