Born Gladys Louise Smith on April 8th, 1892 in Toronto, Ontario, Mary came from a tragic stock, plagued until the end by a grave weakness for alcohol. Her father, John Charles Smith, died suddenly from an accidental blow to the head, leaving her mother, Charlotte, without income, savings and alone with three young children. In order to make ends meet, the family took boarders into their University Avenue home. One of the borders was a theatre stage manager who suggested that Charlotte could put her children on the stage for added income. Thus began Gladys' career on the stage, on the road and eventually arriving at Broadway. The perfect theatre story of tragedy to success.
At age 15, the young Smith set off for New York and approached the famed producer, David Belasco. Against all odds, Gladys got her break on Broadway, and Belasco changed her name to Mary Pickford.
She began working in "flickers" between stage shows and in 1908, signed a movie studio contract that catapulted her to Hollywood stardom. She reigned for 23 years as the undisputed queen of the screen. Canada's "Baby Gladys," as one playbill named her back in Toronto, had become the most famous woman in the world.By 1916, Mary earned an incredible $2000 a week, with an additional $10,000 completion bonus for each film. Mary's weekly "wages" topped the average family annual income of the day!
Married thrice, her first marriage to actor Owen Moore began secretly and virtually remained so until its end. After her divorce, she wed matinee idol Douglas Fairbanks. The couple started United Artists Studios alongside their close mutual friend, Charlie Chaplin. Pickford and Fairbanks also built the legendary estate, Pickfair, that became the unofficial capital and hangout for Hollywood's brightest stars. Her third marriage to Charles "Buddy" Rogers lasted more than 40 years until her death, on May 29th, 1979. The couple adopted two children, Ronald and Roxanne.
Pickford always remembered her roots and humble beginnings. Her chosen name, Pickford, came from her mother's ancestors so she always felt close to family. She was active in philanthropy, contributing to charities such as the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which she helped found.
Mary was awarded two Oscars during her life: the first was in 1929 for her role in the film Coquette. Her second was a Lifetime Achievement Award she received at the 1976 Oscars, also when she made her last public appearance.
Mary Pickford was the first Canadian to ever win an Oscar. She was also the second ever to win best actress and the first for a role in a film with sound. She was also one of the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.