Mary Pickford was clearly an amazing woman. She was one of the first movie stars and was at the top of the industry for nearly twenty years. A producer, brilliant business woman, and a great actress. Although it seems her business sense has been widely acknowledged, I think her acting appeal is often overlooked because she 'only played little girls.'
First off this is of course not true, as she played a much wider range than that, but secondly why does it even matter? People get Oscars and other awards for playing old people, but it is for some reason 'disturbing' to viewers, even classic and silent film lovers that she sometimes played adolescents. I don't really know why this is the case. Actually I am incredibly tired of the cliched phrase that an actor or actress "is too old for the part". It seems to me that a great performance is a great performance, whether it's Mary Pickford playing a teenager at the age of 34 or Bette Davis playing an old woman in her twenties.
Perhaps Mary Pickford makes it look too easy. I am 20 years old (technically still an adolescent and will be for a few years as that age range goes to 25). I think she perfectly encapsulates the mixed emotions and potential of a teenage girl, which are still vivid and sometimes painful memories for me. For example see how she reacts to the grown man in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm with an awakening sense of attraction, but underneath still unaware of what that means. One of my personal favorite of moments in all film is the scene in Sparrows where her character realizes the baby has died. Pickford plays it with sadness, but also understanding, as the her character, who has been through a lot, must have. She always has such amazing fully thought out character portrayals, whether she plays a young girl or a young woman. I recently watched My Best Girl where Pickford plays a grown woman. It is one of the most complete characters I have ever seen in a film. She is both excited about her new and probably first romance and burdened by her family. Of course in the scene near the end she brilliantly shows this conflict, that must be seen several times to be appreciated.
Let's put Mary Pickford where she belongs in the film history books, both as a pioneering film maker and a great actress and stop griping about age and give credit where it is so clearly due.