"Stuck In Neutral"
“As much of a support as Shawn’s mother is, the same kind of gentle, friendly and inclusiveness comes from Shawn’s sister, Cindy McDaniel, played passionately by Amy Greenspan. Amy plays the sister to the hilt of reality. Having a younger disabled brother and an egocentric and sometimes obnoxious older brother, Amy is often the coach, referee and general console for the family. Amy shows a real meaningful side in a realistic way of being the older sister of a disabled brother, which is a little harder to deal with day by day.”- Lorenzo Marchessi (NoHoArtsDistrict.com)
"Land of Dreams" in the Culver City News
Pioneer Pickford Paved The Path
By Natasia Gascon
More than a century ago, a young girl from Toronto boarded a train for New York City, her head filled with impossible dreams. Her name was Gladys Smith, her destination was Broadway and her dream was to become an actress.
Today, we remember that ambitious young girl as one of the most influential women in the history of Hollywood. We know her best by her stage name: Mary Pickford.
Known as America’s Sweetheart, her delicate curls and spunky attitude made her a popular face of the silent film era. She was hired as a film actress by director D.W Griffith in 1909 after a stint in Broadway and became a powerful woman in Hollywood during the early years of the motion picture industry.
On Saturday, the Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education hosted a live presentation in her honor, titled Land of Dreams at the Culver City Julian Dixon Library.
The 25-minute presentation included a solo performance by actress Amy Greenspan, who played a young Gladys Smith chatting happily about her dreams on that faithful train ride from Toronto to New York. With improvised props and incredible acting talent, Greenspan reenacted the major events of Pickford’s life, with relevant photos and movie clips on a projection screen behind her.
“I think she’s a very inspirational woman,” said Greenspan. “She worked and worked and didn’t wait for anything to come to her — she went after it. I think for any young actor or anyone who is doing anything for art, it’s an inspirational thing. You have to keep going after something until you get it. And she actually got it and got it big.”
At a time when American women were still fighting for the right to vote, Pickford had the power to choose her directors, produce her own films and even negotiate contracts. She was the world’s first international movie star, earning $150,000 in 1916.
In 1919, Pickford and fellow Hollywood luminaries Charlie Chaplin, D.W Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks, founded the first independent film studio in America: United Artists. Pickford was also one of the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and received the second-ever Academy Award for best actress in 1929.
Pickford was “a pioneer for the whole film industry,” Greenspan said.
It was the end of silent films and the beginning of the talkies, which ultimately brought Pickford down. Although she won a best actress Oscar for the sound picture Coquette in 1929, she never fully embraced the new medium and retired from acting shortly afterwards.
Despite this, Pickford continued to produce films and even started a few businesses along the way. Shortly before her death in 1979, she received her second Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Today, The Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education is continuing its effort to bring awareness to Pickford’s life. The organization aims to preserve her work, further her philanthropic legacy and honor her creativity by providing educational programs using film, video and digital media to empower students to follow their own dreams.
“Mary Pickford came from a very poor family, with nothing near a movie star lifestyle,” said Greenspan. “She went by herself to New York and just worked and worked until she got what she wanted.”
Greenspan concluded by saying, “It’s important when you have a dream that even if someone says ‘That’s not possible, there are too many people out there; you can’t do it,’ it shouldn’t matter. Go after it, just do it!”
For more information about The Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education, visit www.marypickford.com.