18. Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford, born Gladys Marie Smith in 1892, rose from filming nickelodeon shorts for $10 per day to becoming a founder of United Artists, along the way, becoming “America’s Sweetheart“, as she was known and promoted. During the Roaring Twenties, she was one of the most highly paid actors in film, and her fame was worldwide. When she cut her famous long curls into a bobbed hairdo for a film role, the act was reported on the front page of the New York Times to a stunned and generally disapproving public. Pickford retired from acting in 1933, but remained a powerful film executive and producer in Hollywood, and influential during times of great changes for American women.
During the First World War, Pickford used her celebrity to launch drives to sell Liberty Bonds, addressing large audiences in personal appearances. Following the war, she created the Motion Picture Relief Fund (MPRF), to address the financial needs of struggling and retired actors. In 1932 she created a payroll deduction program, in which studio personnel donated one-half of one percent to support the MPRF. The fund led to the creation of the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital. Among the famous actors who spent their last days of retirement, there were Bud Abbott, Larry Fine, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jay Silverheels, and Johnny Weissmuller. Pickford’s legacy of giving continues today.