The Final Years of Jack Pickford

The final 5 years of Jack Pickford’s life are a mystery to most. The years that were filled with car crashes, hospital visits, drunken episodes and chronic illness.

His mother Charlotte passed away in 1928 and he made his final picture called, “Gang War”. Which he co starred with Olive Borden.

Olive Borden
Jack and Olive Borden

July 6th, 1928: Jack was hospitalized after having a heart attack. After he was released from the hospital, he flew from LA to New York to discuss an offer to appear on the famous New York stage. Attendants on the plane said he could barley manage the flight.

Gang War

The newspaper clipping above must had been from sometime in September, 1928. I’m not sure what Jack was sick with then – my guess is that it must have been another breakdown.

*I don’t have any information on Jack from 1929*

November, 1930: Chester Grady, a famous medium at the time, fell in contact with a girl whom he called, “The girl with the golden hair” during a seance.

The girl was Olive Thomas.

Jack Pickford’s first wife who died 10 years earlier in Paris.

olive and jack - last image
The final images of Olive alive. Pictured with Jack.

Olive supossedly told Grady what happened the night of her death. She told him that her death had been an accident and then continued to tell him, in detail, what exactly happened that night.

Grady wrote to Jack to ask if he could confirm the story Olive told, being that Jack witnessed her untimely demise unfold.

Jack never replied.

During this time, Jack would drink himself into oblivion. Often, during his drunken visions, he would call out for a brown haired girl.

The girl was Olive.

Olive - Portrait
Olive’s last and favorite portrait.


August 12th, 1930: Jack marries Mary Mulhern.

Mary Mulhern 2
Jack and Mary Mulhern

The day after the wedding, stores hounded Jack for the bills he never paid. Newspaper’s reported “Summons awaits Pickford in LA”. Their marriage went downhill as soon as Mary figured out that she would have to be Jack’s full time nurse.

Jack 1930.jpg
Jack in 1930

In March of 1931, Jack was in a very bad car accident. He had been sleeping in the backseat of the car while his chauffeur was driving. At an intersection, the car hit a drain pipe – the two were thrown from the car once it hit. The car then crashed into trees and was demolished. Jack was badly cut and bruised. The chauffeur suffered broken ribs and more injuries. Theories claim that the car must have been traveling very fast when it hit the drain pipe. His wife Mary took care of him after the crash.

September 25th 1931, newspapers reported he awoke from a coma and was in critical condition. *All the info that I have at the moment*

Mary Mulhern left Jack sometime after he awoke from the coma. She lived with her parents in New York. Jack spent Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. When his friends confronted him about Mary’s absence, Jack would just say,

“She’s away on vacation.”

Jack finally admitted on February 17th that he and Mary are separated. Telling newspapers:

“Please say Mary Mulhern is an awfully nice girl, and that I’m sorry we couldn’t make a go of our marriage. That is – if you feel like saying something.”

Louella Parson’s wrote the newspaper article, saying that Jack begged her not to write a story about his marriage ending but once his friends and New York knew about the divorce – he relented. Louella also wrote in the article:

“I have always felt Jack might have become one of the screen’s great actors if he hadn’t been born Mary Pickford’s brother. But being the brother of one of the world’s most famous women made Jack feel people were being nice to him only because of the tremendous popularity of his sister.”

February 26th 1932, their divorce was finalized.

Mary asked for freedom among the ground of mental cruelty.

Jack’s friends insisted that the real reason of the divorce was that he just couldn’t get over the death of Olive. Telling newspapers that she was jealous that during his drunken nights, he would call out for Olive and not for her.

Mary Mulhern 5.jpg
Mary Mulhern

On October 14th, 1932, Jack was admitted into the Neuilly hospital in Paris while on vacation. He stayed there for months terribly ill – no one ever visited him. The only person was Douglas Fairbanks. Doctors said during the last stages of his illness he only talked about Mary Mulhern.

Jack desperately wanted his second wife Marilyn Miller near the end, saying,

“I’d like to see Marilyn one last time, if she isn’t mad at me.”

Marilyn agreed to see Jack but passport problems halted her journey to Paris.

Marilyn never made it to his side.

December 31st, Jack had a blood transfusion. It was reported he was getting better.

Then, in a cruel twist of fate, newspapers flashed this headline four days later, “Jack Pickford Dies in Same Hospital Where End Came to Olive Thomas.”

Doctors said he showed unwillingness to live saying, “I have lived more than most men and I’m tired, I’m very tired.”

Jack slipped into a coma three hours before his death at 4 O’ Clock on January 3rd, 1933.

He died from Chronic Polyneuritis, which is an auto imminue disease that causes dizzy spells and muscle issues. There is not cure for it — not even to this day. After 3 years of this disease, it spread to his brain which ultimately killed him. He was 36 years old. There were two doctors and two nurses at his bedside during his passing.

His nurses said he passed with a smile on his face.

The most famous and used rumor on his death is that he died from syphillis. There has been no record to ever surface about this being true. The rumor was started back in the early 1920’s by Florenz Ziegfeld, who started it because he was angry at Jack for Olive Thomas’ death and his early relationship to Marilyn Miller. Florenz apologized for making up such a thing, seeing how much it upset Marilyn.

Pallbearers Carrying Casket of Jack Pickford
Pallbaerers carrying Jack’s casket. Jan. 19th, 1933


***My apologies – Information jumps around alot, I’m working on filling in the gaps!***


3 thoughts on “The Final Years of Jack Pickford

  1. What a interested blog 🙂
    I saw The program with you here in sweden last week. It was so exciting with your past life as Lucille. It makes me wondering who and were i have been in my past life 🙂 / Veronica


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