Mary Pickford and Questions of National Identity During WWI

  • Beth Zdriluk


"WHEN A CANADIAN GIRL BECAME AMERICA'S SWEETHEART:" MARY PICKFORD AND QUESTIONS OF NATIONAL IDENTITY DURING THE WWI It is a little known fact that several of the key figures of early American cinema were, in fact, of Canadian extraction. Pioneering writer-director-producer-actor Mack Sennett, for instance, hailed from Richmond, Québec, while May Irwin, famous for providing American cinema with one half of its first onscreen kiss, was originally from Whitby, Ontario. Similarly, each of the first three Academy Award winners for Best Actress also happened to be Canadian-born. (Mary Pickford, born in Toronto, was awarded the first Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Coquette in 1929, to be followed by Montréal native Norma Shearer in 1930 and Cobourg, Ontario's Marie Dressler in 1931). Unlike more obviously foreign, "Other" stars such as Pola Negri and Greta Garbo, these Canadians were, for the most part, physically and linguistically indistinguishable from their...