Mary Pickford bobbed her hair on June 21, 1928. It made news worldwide. For she was "America's Sweetheart," and those signature golden curls symbolized an earlier, more innocent age when Pickford reigned as the most famous movie star in the world. Pickford's fame burned so brightly and so early — she was washed up in movies by the early 1930s — that it's hard now to recall her impact on popular culture as a gifted actress, wife to fellow superstar Douglas Fairbanks (shown above) and one of Hollywood's most powerful movie moguls. Now, a handsome new book titled “Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies” attempts to restore Pickford to the limelight with essays by film critics and scholars examining all sides of her persona. It's lavishly illustrated with more than 235 photos and images.
Edited by Christel Schmidt, a film historian and Pickford expert, and co-published by The University Press of Kentucky and the Library of Congress, the book has an air of academia but never grows heavy or toxic.
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Pickford's long life (she died in 1979 at age 86) is used as a lens through which to view both the early movie industry and 20th century America. Neither her talent, her beauty nor her business acumen could save her from the fickle Delilah that was — that is — the American public. Tastes changed. New stars rose.
Bobbed hair couldn't put the luster back on 36-year-old Mary Pickford's career in 1928. Maybe this book will do so instead.
Bill Daley is a Tribune lifestyles reporter who writes about food, style and feature topics.
"Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies"
Edited by Christel Schmidt, The University Press of Kentucky and the Library of Congress, 288 pages, $45