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John Charles Smith
August 18, 1896
|Died||January 3, 1933 (aged 36)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Occupation||Actor, director, producer|
John Charles Smith
|Relatives||Mary Pickford (sister)|
Lottie Pickford (sister)
John Charles Smith (August 18, 1896 – January 3, 1933), known professionally as Jack Pickford was a Canadian-American actor, film director and producer. He was the younger brother of actresses Mary and Lottie Pickford.
After their father deserted the family, all three Pickford children began working as child actors on the stage. Mary later became a highly popular silent film actress, producer and early Hollywood pioneer. While Jack also appeared in numerous films as the "All American boy next door" and was a fairly popular performer, he was overshadowed by his sister's success. His career also declined steadily due to alcohol, drugs and chronic depression.
John Charles Smith was born in 1896 in Toronto, Ontario, to John Charles Smith, an English immigrant odd-job man of Methodist background, and Charlotte Hennessy Smith, who was Irish Catholic. He was called Jack as a child. His alcoholic father deserted the family while Pickford was a young child, leaving the family impoverished. Out of desperation, Charlotte allowed Jack and his two sisters Gladys and Lottie to appear onstage, beginning with Gladys, the eldest. This proved a good source of income and, by 1900, the family had relocated to New York City and the children were acting in plays across the United States.
Due to work the family was constantly separated until 1910 when Gladys signed with Biograph Studios. By this time, his sister Gladys Smith had been transformed into Mary Pickford (Marie was her middle name, and Pickford an old family name). Following suit, the Smiths changed their stage names to 'Pickford'.
Soon after signing with Biograph, Mary secured jobs for all the family, including the then-14-year-old Jack. When the Biograph Company headed West to Hollywood, only Mary was to go until Jack pleaded to join the company as well. Much to Mary's protest, Charlotte threw him on the train as it left the station. The company arrived in Hollywood, where Jack acted in bit parts during the stay.
Mary soon became a well-known star, and by 1917 had signed a contract for $1 million with First National Pictures. As part of her contract, Mary saw to it that her family was brought along, giving the now-named Jack Pickford a lucrative contract with the company as well.
By the time he signed with First National, Pickford had played bit parts in 95 shorts and films. Though Pickford was considered an excellent actor, he was seen as someone who never lived up to his potential. In 1917, he starred in one of his first major roles as Pip in the adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations as well as the title role in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and the follow-up Huck and Tom in 1918.
In early 1918, after the United States entered World War I, Pickford joined the United States Navy as an enlisted sailor and was stationed at the Third Naval District in Manhattan, New York. Using the famous Pickford name, he soon became involved in a scheme that allowed rich young men to pay bribes to avoid military service, as well as reportedly procuring young women for officers. For his involvement, Pickford was nearly dishonorably discharged; afterward he returned to making films. By 1923, his roles had gone from several a year to one. In 1928, he finished his last film, acting as Clyde Baxter in Gang War. Through the years, he dabbled in screen writing and directing; however, he never pursued either form further. Most of his films, especially those in the late 1910s, were both commercial and critical successes, making a highly regarded name for himself. Pickford's image was that of the All-American boy, with his sister being “America’s Sweetheart.”
Despite his "boy next door" image, Pickford's private life was one of drinking and drug abuse, domestic violence, and womanizing, culminating in the severe alcoholism that resulted in his early death. In the early days of Hollywood, movie studios were able to cover up almost all of their stars' misbehavior, but within the Hollywood crowd Pickford's activities were notorious. All in all, Pickford appeared in more than 130 movies between 1908 and 1928.
Pickford met actress and Ziegfeld girl Olive Thomas at a beach cafe on the Santa Monica Pier. Thomas was just as wild as Pickford. Renowned screenwriter and director Frances Marion later commented on the couple's lifestyle:
...I had seen her [Thomas] often at the Pickford home, for she was engaged to Mary's brother, Jack. Two innocent-looking children, they were the gayest, wildest brats who ever stirred the stardust on Broadway. Both were talented, but they were much more interested in playing the roulette of life than in concentrating on their careers.
Pickford and Thomas eloped on October 25, 1916, in New Jersey. None of their family was present and their only witness was Thomas Meighan. The couple had no children of their own, though in 1920, they adopted Olive's then-six-year-old nephew when his mother died. Although by most accounts Olive was the love of Pickford's life, the marriage was stormy and filled with highly charged conflict, followed by lavish making up through the exchange of expensive gifts. For many years the Pickfords had intended to vacation together and with their marriage on the rocks, the couple decided to take a second honeymoon.
In August 1920, the pair traveled to Paris, hoping to combine a vacation with some film preparations. On the night of September 5, 1920, the couple went out for a night of entertainment and partying at the famous bistros in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. They returned to their room in the Hôtel Ritz around 3:00 a.m. It was rumored Thomas may have taken cocaine that night, though it was never proven. She was intoxicated and tired, and took a large dose of mercury bichloride, a common item for bathroom cleaning. She was taken to the American Hospital in the Paris suburb of Neuilly, where Pickford, together with his former brother-in-law Owen Moore, remained at her side until she succumbed to the poison a few days later. Rumors arose that she had either tried to commit suicide or had been murdered. A police investigation followed, as well as an autopsy, and Thomas's death was ruled accidental.
Pickford married two more times. On July 31, 1922, he married Marilyn Miller (1898–1936), a celebrated Broadway dancer and former Ziegfeld girl, at his sister and brother-in-law's famed home Pickfair. By most accounts it was an abusive marriage due to Pickford's drug abuse and alcoholism. They separated in 1926 and Miller was granted a French divorce in November 1927.
Pickford's final marriage was to Mary Mulhern, aged 22 and a former Ziegfeld girl, whom he married on August 12, 1930. Within three months Pickford grew increasingly volatile towards Mulhern. After two years Mulhern left Pickford, claiming he had mistreated her throughout the marriage. She was granted an interlocutory divorce in February 1932 which had yet to be finalized at the time of Pickford's death.
Death and legacy
In 1932, Pickford visited his sister Mary at Pickfair. According to Mary, he looked ill and emaciated; his clothes were hanging on him as if he were a clothes hanger. Mary Pickford recalled in her autobiography that she felt a wave of premonition when watching her brother leave. As they started down the stairs to the automobile entrance, Jack called back to her "Don’t come down with me, Mary dear, I can go alone." Mary later wrote that as she stood at the top of the staircase, an inner voice said "That’s the last time you’ll see Jack".
Jack Pickford, at age 36, died at the American Hospital of Paris on January 3, 1933. The cause for his death was listed as "progressive multiple neuritis which attacked all the nerve centers". This was believed due to his alcoholism. Mary Pickford arranged for his body to be returned to Los Angeles, where he was interred in the private Pickford plot at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.
|1909||The Message||In Crowd|
|1909||Wanted, a Child||A Child|
|1909||To Save Her Soul||A Stagehand|
|1910||All on Account of the Milk||At Construction Site|
|1910||The Kid||Walter Holden's Son|
|1910||The Modern Prodigal||The Sheriff's Son|
|1911||His Trust Fulfilled||Black messenger|
|1911||The Stuff Heroes are Made Of|
|1912||A Temporary Truce||An Indian|
|1912||Man's Lust for Gold||Among the Indians|
|1912||The Inner Circle||The Messenger|
|1912||A Feud in the Kentucky Hills||A Brother|
|1912||The Painted Lady||Beau at Ice Cream Festival|
|1912||The Musketeers of Pig Alley||Rival Gang Member/At Dance|
|1912||Heredity||Son of White Renegade Father and Indian Mother|
|1912||My Baby||Wedding Guest|
|1912||The New York Hat||Youth outside church|
|1913||A Misappropriated Turkey||On Street|
|1913||Love in an Apartment Hotel||A Bellhop|
|1913||The Unwelcome Guest||One of the Children||Alternative title: An Unwelcome Guest|
|1914||The Gangsters of New York||Spot, the spy||Alternative title: The Gangsters|
|1914||Home, Sweet Home||The Mother's Son|
|1914||His Last Dollar||Jockey Jones|
|1915||The Love Route||Billy Ball|
|1915||The Pretty Sister of Jose||Jose|
|1915||A Girl of Yesterday||John Stuart|
|1916||Poor Little Peppina||Beppo||Alternative title: Little Peppina|
|1916||Seventeen||William Sylvanus Baxter|
|1917||The Dummy||Barney Cook|
|1917||What Money Can't Buy||Dick Hale|
|1917||The Varmint||John Humperdink Stover|
|1917||Tom Sawyer||Tom Sawyer|
|1918||The Spirit of '17||Davy Glidden|
|1918||Huck and Tom||Tom Sawyer|
|1918||His Majesty, Bunker Bean||Bunker Bean|
|1919||Bill Apperson's Boy||Buddy Apperson|
|1919||Burglar by Proxy||Jack Robin|
|1919||In Wrong||Johnny Spivins|
|1920||The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come||Chad|
|1920||A Double-Dyed Deceiver||the Llano Kid|
|1920||The Man Who Had Everything||Harry Bullway|
|1920||Just Out of College||Ed Swinger|
|1923||Garrison's Finish||Billy Garrison|
|1924||The Hill Billy||Jed McCoy||Alternative title: The Hillbilly|
|1925||Waking Up the Town||Jack Joyce|
|1925||The Goose Woman||Gerald Holmes|
|1926||The Bat||Brooks Bailey|
|1926||Brown of Harvard||Jim Doolittle|
|1926||Exit Smiling||Jimmy Marsh|
|1928||Gang War||Clyde Baxter||Alternative title: All Square, Lost film|
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- Talmadge, Margaret L. The Talmadge Sisters. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1924.
- Paris Authorities Investigate Death of Olive Thomas. The New York Times, September 11, 1920.
- POLICE DEMAND FURTHER PROBE OF OLIVE THOMAS' DEATH, The Washington times. (Washington D.C.) 1902-1939, September 12, 1920.
- Holmstrom, John. The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995, Norwich: Michael Russell, 1996, pp. 10–11. ISBN 9780859551786
- Mary Pickford: America's Sweetheart by Scott Eyman ISBN 978-1-55611-243-0
- Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood by Eileen Whitfield
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- Marion, Frances (1972). Off With Their Heads: A Serio-comic Tale of Hollywood. Macmillan. p. 65.
- The Life and Death of Olive Thomas. Taylorology. Arizona State University.
- Memories of Olive Archived December 14, 2012, at archive.today, Assumption College.
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- Epting, Charles L. (2016). Bebe Daniels: Hollywood's Good Little Bad Girl. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 102. ISBN 9781476663746.
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- "Pickford Wedding Is Unmarred". San Jose Evening News. August 13, 1930. p. 4. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
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- "Hollywood Star Walk: Jack Pickford". latimes.com. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
- "PARIS AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE DEATH OF OLIVE THOMAS; Police Seek Evidence on Rumors of Drug and Champagne Orgies. REFUSE TO RELEASE BODY Former American Officer, Sentenced for Selling Cocaine, One of Those Questioned. PICKFORD IN DOCTOR'S CARE Police Have Not Yet Obtained His Story of How the Actress Drank Poison". nytimes.com. September 11, 1920. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
- "isbn:1613734077 - Google Search". books.google.com. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
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- Steve Vaught (August 26, 2011). "You Don't Know Jack – A Second Take on Jack Pickford – Part II". Paradise Leased. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
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- "page 22". Daily News. September 14, 1920. Retrieved August 24, 2018 – via newspapers.com.
- Amy Marie (September 20, 2016). "The Final Years of Jack Pickford". Stories of the Silent. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
- Gordon Thomas (September 10, 2015). "Beautiful Dead Girl: On Early Hollywood Casualty Olive Thomas (Oct. 20, 1894-Sept. 10, 1920)". Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
- Shane Brown (January 28, 2014). "The Man Who Had Everything: The Curious Case of Jack Pickford and the New York Times". Bright Lights Film Journal. Archived from the original on August 24, 2018. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
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