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Mary Pickford

Icons of the Century

As a 24-year-old, Pickford portrayed a 12-year-old in 1917’s “The Poor Little Rich Girl.” The thesp, always willing to gamble artistically, had hit the jackpot with a worldwide smash that cemented Pickford’s status as the most popular actress on Earth. The rise of “America’s Sweetheart” dovetailed with the explosive popularity of American films around the world.

She was delicately beautiful but open, friendly, a gifted actress who instinctively knew that film required smaller, more subtle gestures. But she was also a steely businesswoman, negotiating a contract with Adolph Zukor in 1916 that paid her $1 million over two years. She would later co-launch United Artists with husband Douglas Fairbanks, among other superstars.

The Pickford-Douglas pairing still plays in the public imagination as unspeakably glamorous.

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