Jack Pickford

Jack Pickford
Film: West side of the 1500 block of Vine Street
Actor | Director | Producer
Born John Carl Smith on Aug. 18, 1895 in Toronto, Canada
Died Jan. 3, 1933 of multiple neuritis in Paris, France

Jack Pickford was an actor and sometime producer and director who was the youngest member of the famous Pickford family.

Born John Carl Smith in Toronto on Aug. 18, 1895, Pickford moved to the U.S. in 1904 and became an American citizen in 1920.

After older sister Gladys Smith changed her name to Mary Pickford, the rest of the family — mother Charlotte, sister Lottie and Jack — followed suit, changing their last names to match hers.

The family acted in touring theatrical companies before Mary Pickford hit it big. Her stardom undoubtedly greased the wheels for the film careers of Jack and Lottie.

Young Jack played several famous youngsters, including Pip in "Great Expectations" (1917) and Tom Sawyer in "Tom Sawyer" (1917) and "Huck and Tom" (1918). Later, he dabbled in producing and directing films. He is named as a co-director on several of Mary's films.

Despite his successes, Pickford was known as much for his drama-filled personal life as for his films.

While serving in the Navy during World War I, there were rumors of his involvement in a scheme to help wealthy Americans avoid military service, and he was discharged, although not dishonorably. Some speculated that Mary had intervened to prevent him from receiving a dishonorable discharge, although no proof of that ever surfaced.

Pickford also earned a reputation as a playboy, and he married three former Ziegfeld girls during his short lifetime. The first, Olive Thomas, died while the couple was vacationing in Paris after ingesting what newspaper reports of the day described as poison. Later reports suggested it was actually medicine prescribed to Pickford. She died in a Paris hospital and the death was ruled accidental.

Pickford later married another actress, Marilyn Miller, but the relationship ended in divorce. He married a third time to actress Mary Mulhern.

He died in Paris, after reportedly traveling there for health reasons at the advice of his doctors, on Jan. 3, 1933, at age 36. His cause of death, his doctor said at the time, was "multiple neuritis which finally affected the brain center." Many have since speculated that his death was hastened by syphilis and alcoholism, although both conditions, if he was indeed afflicted with them, were kept out of the media at the time.

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