Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 96

92 Populär Culture Review Pickford’s little-girl persona hinges on the complicated relationship that Americans in the early twentieth Century had with the phenomenon of time. Themes involving time— urgency, the desire to control or stop time, and the need to make the most o f time— characterize Pickford’s life and the social milieu o f her day. Pickford’s “little Mary” character figures prominently in both. In Stop the Clocks! Time and Narrative in Cinema, Helen Powell notes that “ [t]here have been two major periods in our history where our relationship to time and our experience o f it has [sic] been radically rework ed” (26). The most recent has been since the 1980s as human perception has been altered by digital technology, rendering time and place obsolete; however, “[t]he first occurred in the period from the midnineteenth Century to the outbreak o f W orld W ar I, a time noted . . . for its vast ränge o f inventions that permeated everyday life. It was o f course within this period that cinema was bom ” (Powell 26). It was also the time when M ary Pickford was bom , entered movies, and achieved unprecedented stardom. In the early years o f the twentieth Century, people’s relationship to time was affected by the massive cultural changes caused by industrialization, urbanization, and modemization. Caught up in a technological revolution, Americans were overwhelmed by the dizzying speed at which life was moving, creating a desire to slow down or stop time. As Jeffrey Nealon and Susan Searls Giroux observe, “W ithout question, we experience time in individual, often idiosyncratic ways, but these experiences are also shaped by larger social processes” (122). The new invention o f movies, which made Mary Pickford an international celebrity, had the ability to capture images, freezing time. It is not inaccurate to say that movies subtly made audiences think about time. They feil in love with the good but plucky little girl on the screen and didn’t want her to grow up. Pickford, in tum , developed sa w y and sensitivity in her own understanding o f the passage o f time. Pickford’s perception o f time and the temporal qualities o f the silent screen contribute to the development o f her early twentieth-century celebrity. M ary Pickford began her film career in April 1909. The impoverished young actress, who had trained for the stage with the renowned director David Belasco, was seventeen and needed money. Since her father’s death when she was almost six, she had been the sole means o f Support for her mother Charlotte, and two younger siblings, sister Lottie and brother Jack. At the insistence o f her mother, Pickford reluctantly presented herseif to filmmaker D.W. Griffith at the Biograph Studio to ask for temporary work in the fledgling movie industry until