Mary Pickford as Little Lord Fauntleroy

From early 2013 to early 2014, Pickford and the other 3 sculptures from the Miller Building disappeared for refurbishment while the building's facade was being renovated. Here's the cleaned-up version:


And here's how Pickford looked before:


May 29, 1979: Death of Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford (4/8/1892-5/29/1979), one of cinema’s earliest and most influential stars, began her career in 1909 - barely a decade after Edison unveiled his Vitascope. At the time, “flickers” were typically 8 to 12 minutes long and only directors were credited. Pickford was instrumental in getting name recognition for actors and became one of the industry’s earliest stars, rivaled only by Charlie Chaplin. Skillfully negotiating ever-higher salaries, the 24-year-old was making $150,000 a year by 1916, when an average family income was under $2,000.

She also gradually won budgetary and creative control over her films. Director Adolph Zukor, impressed by her ability to grasp details of script, camera angles, directing, acting, wardrobe, editing and promotion, privately commented that if she’d gone into manufacturing she might have become president of United States Steel. Over the course of her career, she was featured in 140 one-reelers and 52 feature films.

In 1919, with Chaplin, director D.W. Griffith and husband Douglas Fairbanks, Pickford founded United Artists, as a way to allow actors to control distribution of their films. Although she stopped acting in 1933, Pickford applied her financial acumen to UA’s affairs well into the 1950s.

The sculpture on the Miller Building shows her as Little Lord Fauntleroy, with her famous sausage curls fashioned into the little boy’s long hair. In Fauntleroy, released in 1921, she played not only the young boy who inherits an earldom, but the boy’s mother. The sophisticated double-exposure techniques and special effects that created a size disparity between the child and mother were landmarks of special effects technology.

Pickford as Fauntleroy

The Miller Building

Miller Building

This sculpture is on the façade of the I. Miller Building, which bears the motto “The show folks shoe shop dedicated to beauty in footwear.” Israel Miller, a Polish immigrant who excelled at making shoes for theater people, ran a public contest to find America's best-loved actresses to decorate the building's facade. The winners were (left to right) Ethel Barrymore (drama), Marilyn Miller (musical comedy), Mary Pickford (movies), and Rosa Ponselle (opera).

Click here for a great series of before-and-after photos of the Miller Building, and here and here for more on the history of the building.

Further Reading