Silent film audiences adored Mary Pickford and the plucky, youthful heroines she brought to life in “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (1917), “Pollyanna” (1920) and scores of other films that made her a star.
But in the early 1920s, “America’s Sweetheart” wanted to stretch her wings.
“I like to say she was an ambitious actress, as well as a practical producer,” says film historian/author Jeffrey Vance. “She longed to get away from ‘the little girl with the golden curls’ and expand her range in adult roles and more ambitious productions.”
Toward that goal, Pickford, a founder of United Artists,...