Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 99

Mary Pickford: The Little Girl 95 If time seemed to define Pickford off-screen, it played an even more important role in her on-screen image. Pickford tum ed back time by playing the child, and in order to do so skillfully and convincingly, she had to act and appear the part. Physically, she had the right look. Biographer Eileen W hitfield paints her as one “whose face seemed to move from round good humor to unsettling beauty. Her hazel eyes held a melancholy sweetness. Her bones were fine, her build small. Her back fairly dripped with springing curls. She stood up proudly on size-five shoes; the longest finger on her hand was two and a half inches. Yet she spoke with the aim o f a torpedo” (Whitfield 75). Pickford intemalized a child’s movements, once revealing her process to Vogue magazine: “relax the brow and comers o f the mouth, point toes inward, loosen legs” (W hitfield 154). In the role o f Gwen in Poor Little Rieh Girl, Pickford embraces childlike movements as she pulls back and slams on the brakes while holding an adult’s hand as she goes down the stairs, clutches her teddy bear by its leg, skips flat-footed, and dances dreamily as though there is nothing eise in the world to occupy her mind (W hitfield 154). She changes emotions on a dime, going ffom tears to anger to boredom to joy, just like a child whose unbridled feelings know no restraint (Whitfield 155). Pickford attributes her ability to her own lost childhood as she worked to Support her family. “That phase o f my life,” she recalled, “was unlived”; [my childhood] was “walled up inside o f me . . . I had to express it” (Whitfield 154-155). Pickford radiated energy, spunk, and tendemess, drawing people to her and enabling them to relive their own childhoods or see in her their own children or grandchildren. Pickford realized that her most loyal fans loved her child roles best so she continued to play them, developing new ways o f appearing youthful. To appear smaller, she offen acted with tall co-stars and large props, such as fumiture fashioned two-thirds larger than normal (Whitfield 155). She even pioneered new ways o f stopping the effects of time on her face. One moming while putting on her makeup Pickford saw that when one o f her mirrors caught the moming sunlight, its reflection on her face made her look much younger, and she convinced her Poor Little Rieh Girl director, Maurice Toumeuer, to experiment (Beauchamp 67). Toumeuer balked at first, until Pickford persuaded him to “Take my close-up as you usually do, then would you get me a little spot, and put it on a soapbox or something, and direct it at my face? Then you can see it in the darkroom and choose” (Beauchamp 68). Toumeuer saw that Pickford was right, and the baby-spot technique became a mainstay in Poor Little Rieh Girl and all her films that followed. Charles