When the Talkies Came to Town

mary-pickford-poor-little-rich-girl-19171929 was a year of transition for the Academy Awards. After the First Academy Awards ceremony honored The Jazz Singer, the film that revolutionized the previously silent-film-dominated industry, the Awards turned its attention to talkies in its second season. Silent film stars like Mary Pickford, confronted with these new films and the new women many of them featured, attempted to hold out, keeping their hair long for fear of alienating their fan bases. Yet Hollywood had already declared these old-fashioned girls passe and embraced bobbed actresses who epitomized the flapper, such as Colleen Moore, Clara Bow, and Joan Crawford.

excerpted from Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies by Christel Schmidt

“In Coquette (1929), Pickford’s onscreen persona–cultivated by the actress for two decades–was completely transformed. Gone were her trademark curls, and with them the illusion of youth they had helped create. Her stylish new bob revealed a mature woman, now in her late thirties, who suddenly seemed too old to play the modern girl. Gingham frocks and tattered dresses were replaced by strappy silk gowns that exposed her bare shoulders and knee-lencoquette-postergth skirts that revealed her shapely legs. She even adopted a flirtatious manner, batting her heavily made-up eyes.

The dramatic changes to Pickford’s image were a serious challenge for her fans, and the addition of sound complicated matters. Coquette, the actress’s first talking picture, introduced her voice, which was small and had a reprimanding tone, making the star seem even more unfamiliar. Still, the film had an immense curiosity factor and became her biggest box-office success. Pickford won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Coquestte–an honor that likely recognized her career achievements more than her work in the film itself.”

Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies by 1 PM Friday, February 22!

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