Friday, June 3, 2011
Mr. Douglas Fairbanks
Another great example of "They don't make them like this anymore." Nowadays the action heroes are huge muscle heads who bash people's heads in or shoot them or stab them, set them on fire, whatever (Don't get me wrong, I love me some Jason Statham). But, Doug was an action hero without the explosions and blood and gore, and without words! He was so dashing and dreamy, and had the most amazing smile. He always looked like he was having the time of his life when he was on film. Another great/funny thing about him was his "healthy" tan. That man was DARK!! But, he was good looking, so oh well. And he has one of the coolest graves ever. In my mind, all the silent film stars should have huge memorials like his, because to me, they were/are larger than life.
Douglas Fairbanks was born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman on May 23, 1883 in Denver, Colorado. His father, Hezekiah, was a lawyer and his mother, Ella. He had an older brother, Robert and a half brother and a half brother (through his mother) named John. Because their father abandoned the family when Doug was only 5, his mother gave them the last name of Fairbanks, after her first husband.
Doug began acting early and was in stage productions all through his high school years, but he left school during his senior year. He moved to New York City in 1900 and appeared on small stages until he made his Broadway debut two years later.
In 1915, he signed with D.W. Griffith and appeared in his first film called The Lamb. Already he was showing great panache as an athletic actor, but Griffith wasn't too happy about this persona, so he had Doug appear in more romantic comedy type roles. This lead to Doug opening his own production company before being signed to Paramount studios. He was one of a handful of stars who also had good business sense, so he was able to make bank while making movies.
A few years later, Doug joined fellow actors Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford (his lil girlfriend at the time, but we shall get to that) on a war bond drive. They traveled by train all over the country and sold thousands. The pictures of them on tour are amazing. You see Doug or Mary or Charlie standing up over a crowd of thousands, just incredible.
Since these three were the highest paid stars at the time, you can guess that they weren't getting paid just peanuts. Oh no, they were making major bank, which was not making the studios very happy. So, in 1919 the big three along with D.W. Griffith formed their own production company called United Artists which gave the performers control over their films and the profits. For a few years after, the company was held afloat mostly by the profits of Doug's pictures.
Doug decided to get out of the comedy and genre and start making swashbuckling, action films. The most popular titles included The Mark of Zorro (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1922), and The Thief of Baghdad (1924). My favorite is The Gaucho (1927). I just love him and Lupe. Just lovely :)
Now, Doug would have been fine in talkies, but he just didn't like them. In early talkies the microphone was placed in one spot and people kinda had to talk around it and it didn't pick up very well. He thought they were too restricting to the type of films he liked to be in, so he just bowed out. Not to mention ole Dougie wasn't the athletic young man he used to be. Years of chain smoking were catching up to him and he wasn't as in shape as he used to be. He made his last film, The Private Life of Don Juan in 1934.
Although retired, he continued to be involved in the picture industry in one form of another, but his passion for film had diminished a lot.
Douglas Fairbanks passed away on December 12, 1939 of a heart attack in his home. He was only 56 years old.
Doug was buried at first at Forest Lawn - Glendale in the Great Mausoleum. Two years later, he was moved to his current location at Hollywood Forever in his awesome tomb (His son, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was placed there also when he died in 2000).
The first real suave, adventure hero was married three times. Not surprising since he was a babe. His first marriage was to Anna Sully in 1907. Their son, Doug Jr. was born two years later. Anna and Doug divorced in 1919 because of his affair with Miss Mary Pickford. Mary and Doug actually met three years earlier and continued their affair until they were both divorced from their spouses and able to wed each other in 1920. They were worried that this "sordid" affair would cause their fans to turn their backs on the couple, but the public loved them! They were the King and Queen of Hollywood and they set up their own palace, known as Pickfair. But this perfection did not last...because Doug again began to get the wandering eye, and it wandering right over to Miss Sylvia Ashley. Mary and Doug divorced in 1936, and he married Sylvia later that year. They remained married until his death.
Even though Doug and Doug Jr. shared the same name, the two were not close. He was also an accomplished actor and his father was proud of his talents. He was not just famous for being the son of a famous silent film star, but also for his first marriage to a young Joan Crawford. They were married from 1929 to 1933.
Like my greatest love, Buster Keaton, Doug performed all his own stunts in his movies. With the exception of a few in The Gaucho.
Unlike many of his fellow stars, Doug liked his name to be listed LAST in film credits. He didn't need it to be in big, bold letters above the title (ahem, Bette Davis).
The creators of the Superman comic book used Doug as a model for the physical attributes they wanted Superman to look like.
"I've never felt better." ~~ Douglas Fairbanks (his now famous last words)