Ms. Pickford's been in Los Angeles news a lot lately. First West Hollywood gave the go-ahead for CIM corporation to tear down her first studio, The Motion Picture and TV Fund Nursing Home almost went under, and now the Pickford Film Institute has been entirely defunded.
The "American sweetheart" was pretty much unstoppable after DW Griffith gave her her first film role in 1909. Acting in 51 films that year, by 1912 she was the most famous actress in the world. She was also one of the first women to write, direct, and produce films. She may have played the virginal, sweet faced innocent on the screen, but she was a razor-sharp buisnesswoman who pretty much ran the industry in the early 1900's. The fact that she almost single handedly built this town via her philanthropy and job-creating projects leaves me scratching my head a little when I think about how the city seems to have forgotten what she did for this place. You would think especially Hollywood would better preserve the legacy left behind by the first mega stars that paved the way for just about everyone here. Her name is on numerous buildings but most people you ask have no clue who she was, and to me that shows that something is seriously lacking here. I read a story the other day that they are planning a biopic about her - what took so long?
I wasn't here when Pickfair was demolished (the HORROR!) but it makes me wonder what will be deemed unnecessary to keep in the future. is Musso and Franks next? Graumans is owned partially by the same company that just demolished Pickford-Fairbanks Studios, is it next to go? The Roosevelt? Or what about those beautiful theaters downtown, half of which are sitting empty - will the United Artists building be next to come down?
The saddest thing about the Pickford Institute's defunding is that it was the last bastion formally paying homage to Pickford both by keeping her story alive and by continuing her charity to the community by providing film classes and history lessons to kids, and offering grants for schooling. I get a little angry when I think how they've torn down her home, her studio, parted out United Artists, ruined the health care program she set up for the industry, and are now letting the education programs go, for what? To bump a politician's salary? To build ugly modern buildings on sites where Hollywood was literally born? And where are all the stars that wouldn't have had the glitz and glamour to be drawn to if not for her and the greats from her era? She wouldn't have let them be forgotten or eradicated from the history books.
To me, Pickford is one of the most important figures in Hollywood's history. Even today it's still a boys club and to accomplish what she did over 100 years ago is both impressive and fascinating. What can we do to ensure future generations learn about her and the other important players from her era? It seems this city is so interested in making and hoarding money it's forgotten it has to massage it's roots every now and then or it's surely going to wither and die. And I don't mean they need to pump out more remakes. They need to remember what made the movies an institution to begin with, and go from there.
You can sign the petition to try to keep the institute going here: