America’s Sweetheart was actually a Canadian. Born Gladys Smith in Toronto on April 8, 1892, she first appeared onstage at age five. Her widowed mother, an actress, moved the family to New York in 1900. Pickford went on to appear in almost 250 films and won an Oscar for 1929’s Coquette. Known for her business savvy, she co-founded film company United Artists in 1919. Married three times, she insisted on retaining her Canadian citizenship. She died in Beverly Hills, California, in 1979.
The “beauty that killed the beast” was born near Cardston, Alberta, on September 15, 1907. When she was a child, her father moved the large family to Arizona, then to California. In Los Angeles she began working in low-budget movies while still in her teens. Wray played the lead in the well-regarded 1928 silent film The Wedding March. She earned the nickname Queen of Scream for her role in the famous horror movie King Kong in 1933. She died in Manhattan in 2004.
This big-time Hollywood producer was named Jack Eichelbaum when he was born August 2, 1892, in London, Ontario. He was the youngest of twelve children in a Jewish immigrant family from Poland. The Eichelbaums later settled in Ohio, where Jack’s father changed the family’s last name. Jack and his brothers Harry, Sam, and Albert started producing their own films in 1912. Together, they founded Warner Brothers in 1923. Warner died in Los Angeles in 1978.
This quintessentially tall, dark, and handsome actor was born September 23, 1897, in Saint John, New Brunswick. Walter Pidgeon married his high school sweetheart and followed her to Boston, where she was studying art. Tragically, Pidgeon’s wife died in childbirth a few years later. Pidgeon was discovered by Fred Astaire. Nominated twice for a best actor Oscar, he continued performing until he was eighty. Pidgeon died in Santa Monica, California, in 1984.
The Lone Ranger’s “faithful Indian companion, Tonto” was born Harold Jay Smith, the son of a Mohawk chief, on May 26, 1912, on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. An athletic young man, his uncle nicknamed him “Silverheels” for his running style. While competing in a lacrosse tournament in Hollywood, he found work as a stuntman and extra. That eventually led to his role as Tonto in The Lone Ranger in 1949. Silverheels died in Calabasas, California, in 1980.