Monday, January 19, 2009

Mary Pickford and Pickfair

Mary Pickford was our first real international movie star. Here she is shown above in front of Pickfair, the home she shared with her husband Douglas Fairbanks and spent her life in. She was known as 'America's Sweetheart' and 'the girl with the curls'.
While she rose to fame in the early 1920s, Mary Pickford was born on April 8, 1892 in Toronto as Gladys Smith (not a very glamorous name). She was put to work by her mother to earn a living after her father passed away. She eventually moved on to Broadway in 1907 for a part in The Warrens of Virginia which was written by William Demille, the brother of Cecile B. Demille (who also starred in the play!) I think you can see where this is going.... Her film career spanned from 1909 until 1933 when she retired. She appeared in 236 films during that time period, appearing in 51 films in 1909 alone!Pickford was also a brilliant business woman. She marketed her image in a way seen today by young actresses and celebrities such as Paris Hilton. She was Hollywood's first millionaire - commanding $350,000 a picture and a percentage of the profits by the end of her career. The invention of sound was her undoing though as well as her 'bob' when she cut her hair in 1928. She was no longer able to pull off the young, ingenue roles the public loved to see her in.
Mary Pickford, center, with Loretta Young to the left -hedda hopper can be seen in the background
Mary toured during both world wars selling war bonds and entertaining the troops. She and her 2nd husband, Douglas Fairbanks were seen as 'hollywood royalty' and their home, Pickfair, was seen as it's castle. Mary passed away in 1979 at the age of 87 while still living at Pickfair.
Pickfair was designed by the architect Wallace Neff and was located in the San Ysidro Valley near Los Angeles (1143 Summit Drive). The house featured 22 rooms and had beautiful ceiling frescoes in most of the rooms. It was the first home in Los Angles to feature a swimming pool which was set into a formal garden.
During the 1920s it was, as I mentioned, the capital of Hollywood -where the elite from all over the world were entertained, not just movie stars. Mary Pickford lived there till her death in 1979, although it had become run down. the 'western bar' at pickfair
The actress Pia Zadora later bought the home with her husband and demolished it, building a new one in its place. She claimed it was beyond repair and full of termites after much negative press. The only remaining parts of the mansion are the original gates with the letter P on them. The current mansion was sold for $60 million in 2008.the original gates seen in front of the new mansion.


Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

Great post! I love old movies and learning about classic film stars. Pickfair has always fascinated me, and I was disheartened to learn Pia Zadora had demolished it (why not buy another lot if you want to build new and let someone who cares about the history of the place restore it?). At least we've got photos from its glory days!

Kwana said...

What a great post. You are so full of great information. Fascinating.

willow said...

Interesting post! I love the background on these great old places. Nice photos.

A-M said...

DEMOLISHED!? How terribly sad. A-M xx

Scott Fazzini said...

You should rebuild Pickfair!

Pigtown-Design said...

Doesn't it just KILL you when people take down houses like this!

Richard Rizzo said...

Great job on the photography and history of this beautiful place.