It’s virtually impossible to turn on a TV, surf the web, walk through a supermarket or spend a day in the company of others without some reminder or factoid concerning a starlet.
Be it Selena Gomez, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, Miley Cyrus, Emma Stone, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi or any one of the many Kardashians, pop culture is besotted with a bevy of young women whose faces and lives take up a significant portion of today’s national chatter — regardless of which among them is more or less personally stable and/or qualified — which makes it seem somewhat difficult to imagine the world wasn’t once so flooded with the facts and figures concerning such famous females.
Naturally, the modern push for celebrity scooping is bolstered by Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, TV, radio and film — but a century ago, when the cinema was the only member of that aforementioned set of entertainment avenues having any impact (or even in existence) — there was an actress who found herself becoming one of the country’s first movie stars.
During the early part of the 20th Century, performers weren't identified in a film’s credits, yet young Mary Pickford still managed to turn her name into a household word, and become an American idol. Born in 1892, by the age of 20 Pickford was an audience draw, and her face appeared on theater placards and early fan beat magazine covers in a way never before achieved.
Widely known as “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary went on to eventually out-earn most of her contemporaries during the Silent Film era, become a producer and Oscar winner — all the while surviving the scandal she caused by daring to cut her beloved hair (she was also once dubbed "the girl with the curls;" she switched to a daring, flapper-style bob) and then became an even bigger star following a divorce and remarriage to another of the era’s cinema giants (Douglas Fairbanks), a move that at the time was considered career suicide. If it could be said that any one of the movie industry’s players was the first to set the tone for what would become today’s “celebrity” -- by way of a combination of public interest, complicated personal life and lauded body of work, it’s hard to argue that there is anyone who could supersede Mary Pickford as such.
Nonetheless, the current awareness of Pickford’s career and history is not high, despite her importance in helping bring about the present-day concept of what being “famous” is. However, for anyone curious to learn more about the proto-starlet, Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre is featuring a Pickford film and chat session on Wednesday, May 1.
The “Mary Pickford Celebration” will start at 7 p.m., and will be centered around a showing of “Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall” (1924), a movie that not only both starred and was produced by Pickford, but was rumored to have been directed by her as well (in an uncredited role). In addition, there will be a discussion and signing with Christel Schmidt, editor of the book "Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies.”
Tickets are available at the Centre box office during theater hours, by calling 1-800-838-3006 or online at cinemaartscentre.org ($10 for Centre members, $15 otherwise).
Cinema Arts Centre: 423 Park Ave., Huntington, 631-423-7611