June 23: Mary Pickford’s Million Dollar Contract

Mary_Pickford_with_camera2I think it’s fair to describe Mary Pickford as the most powerful woman of the early days of the film industry. Pickford starred in 52 films during her career and was one of the first movie stars to have their name appear above the movie title on theater marquees. In fact, in her heyday, the only actor at the time who was as popular as Pickford was Charlie Chaplin. The first actress dubbed  “America’s Sweetheart”; Pickford cemented her place in film history on this day in 1916 when she became the first actress to sign a million dollar contract.

Now, a million dollar contract and the adoration of millions would be enough for some Hollywood stars, but not Pickford. In 1919, Pickford would team up with director D. W. Griffith, her future husband Douglas Fairbanks, and Chaplin to create the United Artist Studios. This partnership of four of cinema’s biggest names would give actors and directors both more artistic control over films and a greater share of movie profits. On top of that, Pickford would later help start the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars and a major preserver of film. Pickford would largely retire from acting shortly after the dawn of the “talkies,” but remained a major force in the film industry until she left United Artists in the mid-1950s.

During Prohibition, at the height of her fame, legendary Havana bartender Eddie Woelke created a cocktail to honor Pickford. The Mary Pickford is an appropriately sweet and smart little thing that wouldn’t be out of place on the menu of a 1950s Tiki bar.

Mary Pickford

  • 2 ounces Rum
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • 1 teaspoon Maraschino Liqueur

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Tomorrow: A globetrotting chef.

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