Griffith and Pickford (1)

The Mountaineer’s Honor
R: David W. Griffith. B: D.W. Griffith, Frank E. Woods. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Mary Pickford, Owen Moore, James Kirkwood, Kate Bruce, George Nichols, Arthur V. Johnson, Anthony O’Sullivan. P: Biograph Company. USA 1909
Print: Mary Pickford Foundation

“No major star within the silent era can match the career longevity of Mary Pickford. Starting at Biograph in 1909, she established herself as a leading performer with her first films and went on to become the industry’s biggest female star for the next two decades. Compelling onscreen, Pickford was equally adept at controlling the aspects of stardom that extend beyond the screen. A consummate businesswoman, she capitalized on her popularity from early on, negotiating favorable terms of employment and, eventually, considerable creative control. She achieved a degree of power most stars during the period could not hope to possess. Pickford began acting as a child in Canadian theatrical productions before moving on to the New York stage under the tutelage of the impresario David Belasco in 1907. Switching to films two years later, she made a strong impression at Biograph, particularly as a comedienne. Even though the names of film performers were not made known to the public at that time, fans soon christened Pickford ‘Little Mary’; she parlayed that recognition into a series of increasingly lucrative contracts, moving from one company to another, and commanding a salary of several thousand dollars a week in the process.”

To Save Her Soul
R: David W. Griffith. B: David W. Griffith. K: G.W. Bitzer, Arthur Marvin. D: Arthur V. Johnson, Mary Pickford, Caroline Harris, George Nichols, Kate Bruce, Frank Evans. P: Biograph Company. USA 1909
Print: Mary Pickford Foundation

“To Mary, Griffith appeared to be the ultimate authority figure, yet he had only been directing films for less than a year when she arrived. Born on a Kentucky farm, he had moved to Louisville after his father’s death when Griffith was seven. As a young teenager Griffith worked a variety of jobs to help support his mother and six siblings, including acting on the Louisville stage where he claimed he carried a spear for ‘the divine Sarah Bernhardt.’ He was soon on the road, spending more than a decade traveling through the American hinterlands with different stage companies, acting and trying to be writer. To keep the wolf from the door, as he put it, he joined the Bronx-based Edison Company in 1907 and jumped to Biograph the following year. After several months acting and writing, he was approached to direct and, while he needed to be reassured he could return to acting if it didn’t work out, he quickly found his métier. All those years of learning stagecraft, story arcs and characterizations came together and in part because he was so thoroughly immersed in theatrical conventions, he was free to leave some of them behind as his techniques evolved. New as he was in a chronological sense, Griffith had already directed 100 one-reelers by the time Pickford arrived at his doorstep. He was only in his mid-thirties, but he cultivated the airs of a southern gentleman with Victorian manners. At Biograph, one of the first things the 16-year-old Pickford had to get used to was people calling each other by their first names, although no one called D.W. Griffith anything but Mr. Griffith. He, in turn, called her ‘Pickford’ once he started remembering her name.”
Mary Pickford Foundation

Wilful Peggy
R: David W. Griffith. B: Frank E. Woods. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Mary Pickford, Clara T. Bracy, Henry B. Walthall, Claire McDowell, Kate Bruce, Francis J. Grandon. P: Biograph Company. USA 1910
Print: Mary Pickford Foundation

“The Griffith method was to gather his company around him while he sat on the stage, explain the action and then rehearse scenes. Once he was sure everyone knew what was expected, the film was shot. ‘To stop the camera in those days,’ Mary said, ‘was unheard of.’ Wasting film was wasting money; it cost two cents a foot. And in part because Griffith was paid a bonus for every foot of film he produced, movies were turned out quickly. Mary was comfortable with rehearsals, but to get used to playing to the camera instead of an audience, she practiced her expressions in front of a mirror over and over again.”
Mary Pickford Foundation

>>> Griffith and Pickford (2)

More Griffith & Pickford on this website:

A Beast at Bay
A Feud in the Kentucky Hills
An Arcadian Maid
As It Is in Life
Pippa Passes
The Country Doctor
The Lonely Villa
The Mender of Nets
The New York Hat
The Sealed Room
The Unchanging Sea
The Usurer
The Violin Maker of Cremona
They Would Elope