< Return to Adherents.com's Guide to Movies
    < Return to Religion of the AFI's Top 50 Screen Legends
< Return to Famous Catholics
< Return to Famous Christian Scientists

The Religious Affiliation of
Mary Pickford
great American actress, film producer and studio chief

Mary Pickford was born to a Methodist father and a Catholic mother. She was baptized into both denominations. Mary Pickford was raised as a Catholic and considered herself a devout Catholic as an adult. Her devotion to her Catholic religious beliefs about marriage and divorce was the main reason why she stayed so long with her abusive first husband and delayed marrying fellow movie star Douglas Fairbanks, with whom she had fallen in love. Fairbanks was also a Catholic, but was not devout in his beliefs, nor was he particularly adverse to getting a divorce from his first wife.

After the death of her beloved mother Charlotte, Mary Pickford was distraught but felt she couldn't turn to the Catholic Church for comfort. She found solace in Christian Science and became a devout convert to the faith. Pickford wrote an inspirational book titled Why Not Try God? (1934), which mixed Christian Science wisdom with her her own personal testimony in God and healing.

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford had a famous marriage and were for many years the most celebrated couple in Hollywood -- virtual American royalty. Eventually Fairbanks became unfaithful and this led to their divorce in 1936, after sixteen years of marriage. Seventeen months later, Mary Pickford married fellow Christian Scientist Charles "Buddy" Rogers. Their marriage lasted until Pickford's death in 1979.

From: Gary Carey, Doug & Mary: A Biography of Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford [alternative spelling: Doug and Mary: A Biography of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford], E.P. Dutton: New York (1977), pages 10-11:

Mary Pickford was born Gladys Marie Smith in a six-room, two-story brick house in Toronto sometime in the early 1890s... Her parents were first-generation Canadians, Irish Catholic on her mother's side, English Methodist on her father's. Both families, the Hennesseys and the Smiths, had been prospoerous in the old world...

Jack Smith [Mary Pickford's father] was no great catch, but in taking an Irish Catholic as his bride, he was probably marrying beneath his station. Or so it must have seemed to his relatives. (To keep harmony between the families, Mary was baptized twice, first as a Methodist and later as a Catholic)

From: "Mary Pickford, Filmmaker," by Hugh Munro Neely (http://www.marypickford.com/mpickford_bio.pdf):
Mary Pickford was born Gladys Smith on April 8, 1892 in Toronto, Canada. Her mother Charlotte was Irish Catholic. Her father John Charles Smith was, by reputation, a staunch Methodist with a weakness for alcohol. Within five years of Gladys' birth the Smith family counted three children: Gladys, her little sister Lottie, and baby brother Jack. In 1898 when Gladys was nearly six, her father died from an accidental blow to the head, leaving his family without savings or income.

...Big changes were coming to her private life, as well! Her marriage to actor Owen Moore had been a disaster from its secret start. In a sense it was still a secret. Interviews and articles about Mary never mentioned Owen. Most of her public had no idea that Mary Pickford was also Mrs. Owen Moore. Now to this secret there was added a much more sensational one. Mary had fallen in love. Mrs. Moore, a Catholic, was madly in love with another married man: Douglas Fairbanks.

Carey, page 24:
...on the evening of January 7, 1911, she [Mary Pickford, at the age of 17] and Owen [Moore] took the ferry to Jersey City, where they were married in a drafty and dimly-lit courtroom by a half-crocked justice of the peace.
By most accounts, Mary Pickford's first marriage, to Owen Moore, quickly became an unhappy one. Moore, who was ten years older than Mary, strongly resented having to live in the shadow of his far more famous wife. From: Carey, page 26:
But Mary kept coming back and she went on supporting Moore--most of his jobs between 1912 and 1916 were won through her intervention, often as her leading man or director. Within a year people were saying Mary stayed married to Moore only because she was a Catholic. But Leatrice Joy (who made one of her first screen appearances in an early Pickford film), isn't so sure. "It was my impression," Miss Joy said recently, "that Mary was very much in love with Owen. She turned moony whenever he was around."
Carey, page 4:
By 1915, Owen Moore [Mary Pickford's first husband] had become only a shadowy figure in Mary's private life. From the outset, their marriage had been a long series of fights, separations and reconciliations, culminating in an ugly incident in the lobby of the Hotel Knickerbocker only a few weeks before this trip to Phillips Manor. Moore had openly abused Ma Pickford [Mary's mother]. Mary had demanded an apology, he had refused and for a while it looked as though this would be the end of the marriae. But Mary, a devout Catholic, took her wedding vows seriously, and within a few days some kind of reconciliation had been worked out. So it was Moore who escorted Mary to Tarrytown, not Charlotte Pickford, who usually acted as her daughter's escort on such occasions.
Carey, pages 8-9:
Mary [Pickford] accepted Doug's [Douglas Fairbanks] pretense [for inviting her to visit his home, after they first met] without pretense, and on a January afternoon in 1916, she [Mary Pickford] and Charlotte [Mary's mother] came to Ella's [Douglas Fairbanks' mother's] apartment for tea. Charlotte might have preferred something more potent than orange pekoe, but she had been forewarned that Mrs. Fairbanks [Douglas' mother] was an evangelical teetotaler. When Doug was still a wisp of a boy, Ella made him swear he would never touch liquor, and except for a glass of dinner wine or an occasional watery cocktail, he kept his promise until the last years of his lfe.

In the next few weeks, Mary and Charlotte were frequent guests at Ella's home. And it was only a short time before the two mothers realized that Doug and Mary were hoving on the brink of a full-fledged affair. Charlotte didn't mind--she had never liked Owen Moore [Mary's husband at the time] and her Irish peasant blood didn't boil over at the thought of extramarital shenanigans. Ella, howeer, was disturbed by what was happening. She was tolerably fond of her daughter-in-law, Beth [Douglas Fairbanks' wife at the time], and she firmly believed that a man's first duty was to his wife and children. Still, she liked Mary, and above all else, she wanted Doug to be happy.

The tea parties came to an end in February 1916 when Doug went West to resume resuem his film career . Mary's schedule also scheduled a spring visit to California, and she realized, as did Doug, that when they met again in Hollywood they would have to resolve their feelings for each other.

At this time it seems unlikely that either of them thought as far ahead as marriage. Doug had been tutored in the horrors of divorce by his mother (who knew what she was speaking of), and like his hero, Teddy Roosevelt, he considered himself married for all time. And Mary, who had every good reason to divorce Moore, had never done so because of religious scruples. The Catholic Church regarded divorce as a permissible, if regrettable, step, but remarriage meant instant excommunication.

It would also mean the end of her career. Divorce was then a very ugly word, though it was not an uncommon practice. As early as 1904, Edith Wharton had written (in The House of Mirth), "There is a divorce and a case of appendicitis in every family one knows." But Edith Wharton's families were not the kind of people who went to the movies--they were rich and aristocratic, with enough social crust to flout convention and live as they pleased.

Many of the people who went to Mary Pickford pictures were working-class, a social stratum where man-made conventions were still honored as the laws of God. And for her fans, Mary was the personification of the American girl. What would happen if they learned that beneath the golden curls there lurked a tarnished soul, a divorcee, one of those wicked screen vamps who lured men away from hearth and home? No one knew for sure how the picture public regarded its idols.

Carey, page 64:
Doug [Fairbanks] had hoped that his divorce [from his first wife, Beth] would encourage Mary [Pickford] to take the same step, but she continued to bide her time. She was held back by her religious beliefs and pride--she hated to admit publicly that her marriage to Moore was a failure. And she was still not prepared to marry Fairbanks. In her autobiography, Mary remembered asking Doug, "If we both lose our careers, will our love be sufficient for our future happiness?"
In March 1920, about three years after Mary Pickford's romance with Douglas Fairbanks began, she finally obtained a divorce from her first husband. Carey, page 72:
About her religious beliefs, she had this to say, "Statements have been published that I will be excommunicated from the Catholic Church if I marry again. There is no danger. I shall never be excommunicated. In the eyes of the Church my divorce was not illegal. The Church sanctions such an act, but it will not sanction my second marriage. . . ."
Three weeks after Mary Pickford's divorce from her first husband, she married Douglas Fairbanks. From: Carey, pages 74-75:
Three weeks later, the license clerk for Los Angeles County was guest of honor at a Fairbanks dinner party. R. S. Sparks ("Cupid" to his friends) was not accustomed to hobnobbing with the Hollywood rich, so he suspected there was some devious reason for the invitation. "I had a hunch I might be asked for something in the license line when I was asked to dinner," he said. "So I took along the necessary document."

On the Friday night "Cupid" came to dinner, Doug was already living in the stucco and shingle house (actually a converted hunting lodge) that would soon be named "Pickfair." There were several guests that evening, including Bennie Ziedman, Charlotte Pickford and Mary (looking, Sparks remembered, "real pretty in a sparkly white dress"). Doug asked "Cupid" if he had any idea why he had been invited.

Pulling the license out of his pocket, "Cupid" replied with a wink, "I knew I'd get you two sooner or later." After Mary and Doug had filled out the form, he said, "Jeepers, this is my masterpiece in marriage licenses. I can never stage anything better than this."

Doug wanted to be married the next day, but Mary insisted on a Sunday wedding. So the date was set for two days hence, Sunday, March 28. Reverend J. Whitcombe Brougher, a Baptist minister known across the country as a kind of bush-league Billy Sunday, agreed to perform the ceremony at his home in Glendale. All arrangements were private--Lottie and Jack weren't invited because they couldn't be trusted with a secret. To keep up an appearance of normality, Doug spent Sunday afternoon at one of his favorite haunts, the Los Angeles Speedway, where he signed autographs and joked nonchalantly with his fans.

At ten that evening the guests started to arrive at Reverend Brougher's house. Among them were Doug's brothers, Robert and John, and their wives; actress Marjorie Daw, who served as Mary's maid of honor; Charlotte, dressed in Georgette crepe; and the bride, wearing (in the words of novelist Djuna Barnes, then a syndicated fashion columnist) "a pearl santoir" (whatever that may have been) and "a lovely dress of white satin and overdrape of net, caught up with contrasting knots of green and mustard."

The double-ring ceremony ended with Brougher reading the famous passage about marriage from St. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians. ("Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord . . .") Doug chose the selection and asked Brougher to read it from a Bible that had been a childhood present from his mother. Later he passed out expensive Havana cigars to the men, each encased in a souvenir box. Autographing one, Mary signed "Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks" for the first time, and one of the guests pointed out that she was now entitled to American citizenship. Just as the guests were sitting down to a midnight supper, Lottie called, crying because she hadn't been invited to the wedding. Suddenly Doug remembered that in all the excitement he had forgotten to tell Charlie Chaplin and rushed to the phone to correct this oversight.

Cary, pages 76-79:
The harshest criticism of the marriage [between Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks] came, as expected, from the Church. Though there was no mention of Mary and Doug, Bishop Cantwell of the Catholic diocese of Monterey and Los Angeles issued a statement on divorce, calling it "the greatest of all modern evils." He feared that "the people of Los Angeles are not giving to the world at large an example of the Christian life . . . Laws wisely made for the government of civil and social life should not be easily set aside. . . . [they] must be obeyed for conscience' sake."

Reverend Brougher was openly rebuked for taking part in the ceremony. He defended himself by saying that the Baptist church had no rules or laws regulating remarriage and that most ministers would marry divorced persons provided that the cause of divorce had been "a scriptural one." He had known Mary and Doug for five years, and had interviewed them at length before deciding their divorced were "scriptural." Several of Brougher's colleagues disagreed, and he came close to being ousted from the executive committee of the Northern Baptist Alliance.

The final blow was delivered by Leonard J. Fowler, attorney general of Nevada, who announced that he was reviewing the Pickford-Moore divorce, and might start proceeding to annul the decree. A week later, he did bring suit against Mary and Doug on grounds of collusion... if found guilty, she [Mary Pickford] would be open to prosecution for bigamy...

[page 78] Fowler's action backfired. Though not every aspect of Mary's divorce could stand up under legal scrutiny, she was no more guilty of playing fast and loose with the law than were hundreds of other women who had come to Nevada for quick divorces. No one had asked to review their decrees--so why pick in Mary? The answer was obvious: as a national celebrity, she would call attention to Fowler's crusade to make Nevada safe for clean-living, law-abiding Christians. The hypocrisy was too blatant to go undetected.

Public opinion began to turn in Mary's favor when the papers, carrying on their own review of her divorce, printed large hunks of her testimony about [her first husband] Moore. People were shocked by what they read. After so much misery, Mary was entitled to her share of happiness, and what form of happiness could be better than Douglas Fairbanks?

...Newspapers all over the country began carrying editorials in Mary's defense, with Variety being especially outraged at the way she had been maligned. A writer for this trade publication decried "the woodsmen" who used "the halberd and shield of the Protestant church to attack Miss Pickford..."

[page 79] ...This breathless mixture of money, religion, loose grammar and inflated rhetoric is only slightly more effusive than the other tributes paid to Mary. Practically overnight she was patronized as the patron saint of the film industry, a living emblem of all that was best about the American way of life.

Carey, pages 97-98:
Penny-pinching was not, however, the main reason why so many people describe life at Pickfair as "dull"... Mary and Doug felt it was their duty to live quiet, sober lives of respectability as a way of atoning for the scandal of their divorces and marriage. It was what the public expected of them, and though Doug sometimes chafed under the weight of the responsibility, Mary was determined she would never again disappoint her fans.

So Pickfair became filmland's leading embassy of middle-class virtue at a time when the rest of Hollywood was whooping it up wnd exploring the pleasuresof flash success and sudden wealth... when the epitome of "it" was the slave bracelet Natacha Rambova [the Mormon costume designer] gave Rudolph Valentino as an engagement present.

...There were few escapades at Pickfair, no flowing wine, no cocaine, no nude cavorting in the pool. When Mary told the press that there was no "jazzing" in her home, she wasn't kidding.

Carey, pages 99-100:
Following each of these [Hollywood] scandals [such as the "Fatty" Arbuckle murder/rape trial], the self-appointed guardians of public morality would rehash past history to prove that Hollywood was a hotbed of depravity and licentiousness. Inevitably Mary and Doug would be pilloried for making divorce "respectable for decent people." (Which, indeed, to some small degree, they had done.) In 1922, shortly after Taylor's murder, Reveredn Dr. John Roach Straton made headlines by denouncing them from the pulpit of his New York church for "demoralizing and corrupting the honorable institution of marriage." Hundreds of people rushed to their defense, but Mary and Doug wisely stayed silent except to hint that they were once again thinking of moving to London or Paris where no one cared about their morals.

But their best defense, as they both realized, was to steer clear of any kind of controversy or scandal, and mostly they succeeded.

Carey, pages 179-181:
There was a second, more personal reason for Mary and Doug's absense from the screen during 1928. Charlotte Pickford's... death on March 21, 1928. When her mother passed on, Mary became hysterical... Her hysteria lasted, according to her own admission, four or five days; according to other recollections, it went on much longer. For a while she tried to stay in communication with Charlotte through ESP and spiritualism (though she thought her mother would disapprove)...

Some people--Adolph Zukor was one--claim that Mary lost interest in her career after Charlotte's death. And for a while, this seemed to be true. "There is no question about the darkest moment of my life," she later said. "It was my mother s death." Spiritualism brought her only fleeting solace, and because of her marriage to Fairbanks, she couldn't turn to the Catholic Church for support. But there were other faiths, and Mary chose Christian Science: it pulled her through, and in gratitude she later wrote a little book called Why Not Try God?, which was designed to guide people through the kind of crises she had faced.

The title is the message: faith in God and belief in man's ability to overcome, Mary says, will give anyone the incentive to live a richer life. Alternately chirpy and maudlin, the book mixes Christian Science maxims with ectoplasmatic visions; dear departed spirits turn up in Mary's dreams, sometimes in her room, whenever she is blue and needs a few words of encouragement. When published in 1934, it sold over 50,000 copies, and though it's hard to believe, apparently some readers did find inspiration in it. Liberty Magazine (which had printed an early draft of the book under the title, "Why I Can Be Happy In Spite Of It All") claimed "its effects here and there were amazing. A condemned man carried a copy to the gallows with him. A woman in Boston, on the point of shooting two children and herself, read the article and was saved."

These testimonies may well have been true. Leatrice Joy tells of meeting a woman who believed Mary's book had played an important role in her life. During the late stages of pregnancy, Miss Joy's friend had contracted pneumonia, and doctors feared she would lose the baby and possibly die herself; medication couldn't be administered without harming the unborn child. To keep her mind off her problem, a nurse read aloud the article Mary had written for Liberty, and suddenly the woman realized that her breathing was less constricted. Within a few hours, her fever had dropped and she was taken off the critical list. She asked Leatrice Joy to thank Mary for the birth of her "beautiful son." The message was passed along, and Mary sent her a warm note of acknowledgment.

The restorative powers Mary found in her belief in God emerged slowly. In the spring of 1928, Doug was so concerned about her low spirits that he took her off on a short European vacation. This, the least publicized of their transatlantic holidays, was also one of the shortest: sailing in late April, they were back in New York before mid-June. It wasn't one of their happier homecomings--U.S. customs inspected their bags and imposed fines for undeclared goods--but otherwise, it had been a good trip, and seemed to have had a therapeutic effect on Mary. Before returning to Los Angeles, she took a decisive step, one that only a year earlier she had sworn she would never take; she went to Charles Bock's beauty salon on East 57th Street, and had her hair bobbed.

A few months earlier, she had told The Pictorial Review that, "despite the epidemic of haircutting sweeping the country," she was going to hang on to hers. "My curls have become so identified with me that they have almost become a trademark ... a symbol, and I think that shorn of them I should become almost as Samson after his unfortunate meeting with Delilah."

Carey, page 197:
On to of these professional woes came a great personal grief--Mary learned that Jack [Jack Pickford, Mary Pickford's brother] was dying in Paris. The official diagnosis was "progressive multiple neuritis," a euphemism for too much too soon. He had been warned, but was ready to end his life as he had always lived it, full speed ahead. Doug [Douglas Fairbanks, Mary's husband] had seen Jack in Europe only a few months before, and reported to Mary that her brother looked good, had some pink in his cheeks and she shouldn't worry. But Fairbanks was overly optimistic. Early in 1933, Mary was informed that Jack couldn't last much longer. She wired that she was on her way, and that in the meantime, Jack should try Christian Science healing techniques.

The next day, January 3, Jack Pickford died in the same hospital in which Olive Thomas had died nearly thirteen years before. Mary was now alone except for a philandering husband; a wayward sister, who was no comfort--Lottie never really recovered from Jack's death; and teen-aged Gwynne, who had become both a daughter-substitue and a younger sister.

Carey, pages 226-227:
Mary's later years lie outside the boundaries of this book... The nicest thing that happened to Pickford was Buddy Rogers [her third husband, a fellow Christian Scientist], described alternately (and sincerely) as "an angel" or "a saint." After their marriage, he continually encouraged her to go on with her various careers.

...In the early 1950s, she [Mary Pickford] and Chaplin sold their stock in UA... Chaplin and Mary were often on opposite sides of an issue during their final years at UA, and their friendship suffered accordingly. There were politcal differences as well--Mary was staunchly conservative whil Chaplin drifted farther and farther to the left...

For the rets of the 1950s she continued to appear at fund-raising functions, but gradually lost her interest in politics, politicians and charities run along political lines. In the 1960s, after a cataract operation, she started spending most of the day in her bedroom; for a while, she came downstairs to see a movie, but the movies of the 60s and 70s were too prurient for her taste, and she called a halt to screenings.

Today her investments have made her a wealthy woman--The New York Times recently reported she was worth somewhere around $60 million.

From presskit for the movie "Little Lord Fauntleroy," published by The Mary Pickford Institute, Timeline Films and Milestone Film (URL: http://www.milestonefilms.com/pdf/LLFPK.pdf, viewed 4 May 2005):
Mary Pickford. America's Sweetheart was born as Gladys Louise Smith on April 8, 1892, in Toronto, Canada. Early on, she changed her middle name to Marie, possibly when she was baptized a few years later. When she was five, her father died after a long illness due to a job-related accident.
From "About Mary Pickford" FAQ page (http://www.marypickford.com/faqs.html):
Where did the name "Mary Pickford" come from? Young Gladys Smith seized a chance to work with David Belasco in 1907, but her theatrical mentor (easily one of the most powerful men in American theater at the time) advised her to change her name. In her autobiography, she tells of how Belasco first chose "Pickford" from among the family names that she recited, and then advised her to use Mary (from "Marie," one of the names she was baptized with) for her first name.
Mary Pickford was at one time a leader of the Episcopal Actors' Guild. As its name implies, this organization was started by Episcopalians and has been affiliated with the Episcopal Church, but it also has the motto: "Charitable help for performers of all faiths, and none." It is not clear whether Pickford was associated this group because she was in some way affiliated with the Episcopal Church, or whether she was simply a "non-Episcopalian member" of the group. From "More About the Episcopal Actors' Guild" page on Episcopal Actors' Guild website, written November 2004 (URL: http://www.eaguild.homestead.com/files/p-home.html; viewed 26 June 2005):
"The Stage has, beyond any other profession, been ever the handmaiden of charity. Does a disaster occur, has a suffering to be healed, has a charity to be lifted up, the eye of the suppliant first looks to the stage, and never looks there in vain."

This wonderful observation on the generosity of people of the theatre, which is taken from an 1871 New York City newspaper in our Guild Archives, most certainly applies to the members of today's ecumenical and inter-denominational Episcopal Actors' Guild.

The Guild was founded in 1923 and incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit in 1926. It is a charitable fellowship organization governed by its Constitution and By-Laws, and is the result of the youthful idealism of several extraordinary individuals.

It is the only surviving offspring of the Actors Church Alliance (1899-1923), an ecumenical organization founded by a young actor, Walter Bentley, who gave up his career to become a priest. In 1923, its members and officers then founded the Episcopal Actors' Guild, encouraged by Father Bentley and welcomed to its permanent headquarters by The Rev. Randolph Ray, the newly-seated Rector of the "Little Church Around the Corner." Father Ray, a cousin to Tallulah Bankhead, was a lifelong theatre devotee, who had a very young Fred Astaire confirmed at the Little Church, and often hosted his friends Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward for lunch at his Rectory.

Officially called the "Church of the Transfiguration," this place of worship already had a 50-year relationship with the New York Theatre Community. In 1870, Joseph Jefferson, famous for his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle, had requested a funeral at another church for fellow actor George Holland. Upon learning that the deceased had been an actor, the Priest refused. After some prodding by the stunned Jefferson, he suggested that "There is a little church around the corner where it might be done." Jefferson responded, with all the dignity an actor can muster, "Then I say to you, Sir, God bless the little church around the corner." And indeed, the Rev. George Hendrik Houghton, who had founded the church at age 28, accepted the funeral without question. Across the country, newspapers of the day reported the incident, and even Mark Twain editorialized vehemently upon the subject. The "Little Church" became a spiritual haven for actors, and many leading members of the theatre community adopted it, including the great Edwin Booth, who founded the Players, Harrison Grey Fiske, founder of the Actors' Fund, and Henry Montague, founder of the Lambs.

During the Roaring Twenties, the Guild served as a social and artistic center for its members while quietly assisting those in need. Among the first leaders of the Guild were George Arliss, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Minnie Maddern and Julia Marlowe. During the early years several future stars were helped at crucial times in their careers, and later generously remembered the Guild with contributions and Bequests. During the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, the Guild continued its charitable programs and fellowship gatherings featuring afternoon teas with the likes of Basil Rathbone, Otis Skinner, Raymond Massey, Peggy Wood, Cornelia Otis Skinner and Katherine Cornell. Annual fundraising Theatre Benefits became an early tradition throughout this time. The Seventies brought the Guild several major bequests, and the dedicated management of its growing endowment during a favorable stock market enabled the Guild to increase the scope of its activities steadily into the Eighties and Nineties.

About David Belasco, who was the first theatrical manager of Mary Pickford, and who was the man that created her stage name. Carey, page 15:
She [Charlotte Pickford] started at the top [in looking for somebody to utilize her daugher Mary Pickford's acting talents] with playwright, director and producer David Belasco, the self-appointed high priet of American drama. In spite of his Jewish heritage, Belasco wore a clergyman's vest and collar, and once claimed he had been born in a San Francisco cellar "because there was no room in any hotel." It wasn't true, but he couldn't resist a biblical parallel anymore than he could resist a crucifix--dozens of medieval and Renaissance crosses lined the walls of his private office.

David Belasco was a charlatan, a great showman, the middle link in a tradition that starts with P. T. Barnum and ends with Cecil B. De Mille. He loved spectacle and glamor and beautiful women, and mixed them together in a series of skillfully-crafted, lurid melodramas that often centered on the sacredness of profane love. Scarlet ladies with golden hearts were his specialty, and though most of his Mary Magdalenes were redeemed by the final curtain, a few remained floozies to the core.

Carey, page 92:
The guests at these early Pickfair [the home of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks] dinners were a strange assortment... Prominent in this retinue were two prizefighters, Spike Robinson and Bull Montana, who drew weekly salaries for sparring with their boss whenever Jack Dempsey [the famed Latter-day Saint/Mormon boxer] or Gene Tunney weren't around.
Carey, page 103:
Mary and Doug did not attend Olive's [Olive Thomas] funeral at St. Thomas's Cathedral in New York. Their absence was not a sign of disrespect or indifference--they stayed away out of common sense. Even without them, the funeral was nearly turned into a three-ring circus by the fans who came to gawk and grasp at the celebrated mourners.
Carey, pages 106-107:
There are several reasons why Mary [Pickford] and Doug [Fairbanks] never acted together at the height of their careers. First, it wasn't good economics--the public would be getting two stars for the price of one. Second, a co-starring vehicle implied some kind of a romantic plot, and Doug was always ill-at-ease in love scenes. Passion wasn't precisely Mary's specialty, either, and most of her leading men were as sexless as paper dolls--they looked as though their underwear was a part of their bodies. One of the few occasions when she played opposite an actor who seemed capable of dropping his drawers--for example, the young John Gilbert in the 1919 Heart o' The Hills--she was peppery, a regular little spitfire. But the fans didn't want to see Mary's virtue compromised--they wanted her intact, wholesome, ignorant of the facts of life except as they applied tot he domain of birds, bees and barnyard animals.

It is, of course, ironic that a woman who had grown up in the seedy, morally untidy world of the provincial American theatre, who had been twice married and the central figure in a sordid and well-publicized divorce trial, should end up as "The Patron Sint of Childhood." (The phrase, capitals and all, comes from a feature article in a 1921 issue of Vogue.) Mary had mixed feelings about her canonization. In public she bowed her head and gave thanks; in private she fought for the inalienable right of growing up and acting her age.

Carey, pages 164-165:
In 1926 Mary [Pickford] and Doug [Fairbanks] made two of their most highly regarded films: Mary turned in Sparrows and Doug finally got around to his much postponed pirate epic, The Black Pirate... Sparrows in fact is arguably Mary's most satisfying picture since her Paramount/Artcraft period.

In the film, she plays another of her in-between roles. She is "Mama Mollie," a teen-aged guardian of a flock of unwanted or illegitimate children living on a farm in "the shouthern swamplands." Mollie believes God willcare for them just as He looks after the sparrows. But in protecting the children from the sadistic guardians of the baby farm, she eventually has to play God herself. Mollie, being Pickford, is up to the task--at the very moment when her devotion flags, she dreams of Christ, surrounded by angels, and awakens refreshed, newly inspired and ready for action.

Carey, pages 170-171:
...it is true that Mary [Pickford] was staunchly behind the Republican party--by the mid-1920s she was chummy with Calvin Coolidge and in the 1940s offered to tutor Wendell Willkie in personality and public speaking.

It's also true that in the early 1930s she told a group of juvenile inmates at Welfare Island in New York that their imprisonment was "a spiritual exercise":

I took on a Depression and on setbacks such as you boys and girls have had here as a privilege. It brings out the finer things. Napoleon and Lincoln were made for hard time. You're getting spiritual exercise for your muscles . . . Remember that for me, will you, and thank God for this experience.

...It seems unlikely that Mary ever ave much deep thought to her political convictions. Her politics were probably colored by her finances, and her admiration for Mussolini was, as the Times implied, mainly an emotional response.

Carey, pages 175-176:
She [Mary Pickford] is, however, one of the few good things about The Goucho, which is certainly Doug's [Douglas Fairbanks] most peculiar film; also, arguably, his worst. In it, he plays an Argentine bandit with a Robin Hood complex, who tries to save a holy shrine from capitalistic desecration. In the process he falls victim to leprosy, goes through conversion and is healed by the waters of the shrine. He regains his faith when he sees a vision of the Virgin Mary, "a cameo role" played by Mary Pickford. Except for some unbilled extra work, this was the first time Mary had acted with Doug, and some fans were disappointed that she made such a fleeting appearance. But no one questioned the appropriateness of America's Sweetheart playing the Virgin Mary.

Despite the droopy atmosphere of religious uplift, The Goucho has its genuinely vigorous moments... but on the whole, neither critics nor public liked the picture very much. Robert Sherwood, the movie reviewer for Life, bemoaned Fairbanks's decision to include "religion, lust or loathsome disease" in one of his productions... The Gaucho... did pretty well at the box office, but for the first time there were comments in the press that Mary and Doug were "slipping."

From: "Religious Affiliations of Celebrities" page in "Celebrity Religion" section of "Religion Facts" website (http://www.religionfacts.com/celebrities/religions_of_celebrities.htm; viewed 26 April 2007):

Below is an index of the religious affiliations or belief systems of celebrities (both living and dead; in film, television, music, literature, academics and politics), listed in alphabetical order by last name...

Celebrity: Mary Pickford

Religion/Belief: Christian Science

Quotes, More Information, Sources:
The great 1920s actress was raised a Catholic but converted to Christian Science later in life. - Adherents.com [http://www.adherents.com/people/pp/Mary_Pickford.html]

Search Adherents.com

Custom Search
comments powered by Disqus

Webpage created 20 June 2005. Last modified 26 April 2007.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: webmaster@adherents.com.