On today’s date in 1923, Canadian silent film actor Mary Pickford starred in Ernst Lubitsch’s first U.S. film, Rosita, which premiered at the Lyric Theater in New York.
In 2006, Canada Post featured Pickford on a 51-cent stamp (Scott #2153d) as part of a series featuring Canadians in Hollywood. John Candy (SC #2153a), Fay Wray (SC #2153b) and Lorne Greene (SC #2153d) were also feature in the four-stamp issue. Printed by the Lowe-Martin Group on Tullis Russell coated paper using five-colour lithography plus varnish, the stamps have general tagging along each side.
“Canadians have had a tremendous creative influence in film and television, and these stamps recognize their success as part of our heritage,” said Danielle Trottier, stamp design and production manager at Canada Post.
In the early days of the 20th century, when the flickering lights of the silver screen first beguiled viewers with moving pictures, Mary Pickford became “America’s Sweetheart.” Pickford was widely known and well loved for the charming characters she portrayed on screen, but few Americans knew that its sweetheart was actually a girl from Toronto. Born in Toronto in 1892, Gladys Louise Smith adopted her stage name when she moved south to work on Broadway. In 1909, she accepted a film job and found immediate success thanks to an acting style that was perfectly suited to silent film. Pickford developed tremendous rapport with her fans, and soon became famous internationally. Her celebrity status enabled her to demand substantial fees and creative control over her work, and she eventually also managed film production and distribution too, co-founding United Artists with veteran actors Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith in 1919.
“It’s so important that people remember Mary and recognize her for the remarkable woman she was,” said Keith Lawrence, who knew Pickford when he was a child and is now president and CEO of the Mary Pickford Institute. “She had a deep love for Canada and would’ve considered this stamp a huge honour.”
She’s pictured on the stamp with the coy, child-like expression of her many film characters, and against a background of sweetheart roses.
“Each actor is portrayed as they appeared at the peak of their fame, and against a background associated with their work,” said Trottier. “For Pickford, the roses recall her famous nickname and suggest the romance viewers saw in her screen image.”
Inspiration for the style of the four stamps came to designers John Belisle and Kosta Tsetsekas of Vancouver’s Signals Design as they began the research phase of their creative process.
“We started by looking at old Hollywood movie posters, and soon realized that this was a great design concept,” said Belisle. “The feel of movie posters has changed over the decades, but they’re always bold and dramatic. We tried to capture those qualities on the stamps, with iconic portraits and typography in motion, to suggest moving picture.”