Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Fairbanks in 1973, by Allan Warren
Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr.
December 9, 1909
New York City, U.S.
|Died||May 7, 2000 (aged 90)|
New York City, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, naval officer, film producer|
(m. 1929; div. 1933)
Mary Lee Epling
(m. 1939; died 1988)
Anna Beth Sully
|Service/||United States Navy|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
- 1 Early life
- 2 Film career
- 3 World War II
- 4 Post-war years
- 5 Later career
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Death and legacy
- 8 Estate
- 9 Filmography
- 10 Radio appearances
- 11 Awards and honors
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr. was born in New York City; he was the only child of actor Douglas Fairbanks and his first wife, Anna Beth Sully. His paternal grandfather was Jewish. His parents divorced when he was nine years old, and both remarried. He lived with his mother in New York, California, Paris and London.
Stephen Steps Out and Paramount
Fairbanks's father was one of cinema's first icons, noted for such swashbuckling adventure films as The Mark of Zorro, Robin Hood and The Thief of Bagdad. Fairbanks had small roles in his father's films American Aristocracy (1916) and The Three Musketeers (1921).
Largely on the basis of his father's name, Fairbanks Jr. was given a contract with Paramount Pictures at age 14, appearing in Stephen Steps Out (1923). His pay was $1,000 a week. The film was not a hit. Paramount fired him, then hired him back a year later at what Fairbanks called "starvation wages" also having him work as a camera assistant. They gave him supporting roles in The Air Mail (1925) and Wild Horse Mesa (1925).
At Warner Bros., Fairbanks was in Broken Hearts of Hollywood (1926), then, at Metropolitan Pictures, he was in Man Bait (1926). At MGM he was in Edmund Goulding's Women Love Diamonds (1927) and for Alfred E. Green at Fox he was in Is Zat So? (1927). He supported Will Rogers in A Texas Steer (1927).
Early leading-man roles
Fairbanks' second lead role was in Dead Man's Curve (1928) for FBO. He was Helene Chadwick's leading man in Modern Mothers (1928) at Columbia and he starred in The Toilers (1928) for Tiffany. Fairbanks starred in another for Columbia, The Power of the Press (1928), directed by Frank Capra. He went back to supporting roles for The Barker (1928) at First National, his first "talkie" and A Woman of Affairs (1928) at MGM with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. Fairbanks had another starring role at FBO with The Jazz Age (1929) and received top billing over Loretta Young in Fast Life (1928) at Warner Bros.
Our Modern Maidens and Joan Crawford
First National and Warner Bros.
In 1930, Fairbanks Jr. went to Warner Bros. to test for the second lead in Moby Dick (1930). Although he did not win the part, head of production Darryl F. Zanuck was impressed with Douglas's screen test, and cast him in an important role in The Dawn Patrol directed by Howard Hawks.
Universal borrowed him to have the lead role in Little Accident (1930) and at Warners he was in the lead in The Sin Flood (1930). He supported Leslie Howard in the prestigious Outward Bound (1930) and was Billie Dove's leading man in One Night at Susie's (1930).
Fairbanks had an excellent role supporting Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar (1931). "We knew it was going to be good when we were making it but not that it would become a classic", he later said.
The movie was a big hit, and Warner Bros. offered Fairbanks Jr. a contract with cast and script approval — a condition which, Fairbanks Jr. says, was only offered to one other actor at the studio, Richard Barthelmess.
""By sheer accident, I had four successes in a row in the early '30s, and although I was still in my 20s, I demanded and received approval of cast, story and director. I don't know how I got away with it, but I did!"
Because he spoke French he was put in L'aviateur (1931). Back in Hollywood he was in Changes (1931) and I Like Your Nerve (1931) with Young. He starred in two for Alfred E Green, Gentleman for a Day (1932) with Joan Blondell and It's Tough to Be Famous (1932). He starred in a film shot in French, L'athlète incomplet (1932).
He starred in Love Is a Racket (1932) for William Wellman and Scarlet Dawn (1932) for William Dieterle. Fairbanks did another with Green, Parachute Jumper (1933), which gave an early co starring role to Bette Davis.
Fairbanks was reunited with Howard in Captured! (1933).
In 1934, Warner asked all its stars to take a 50 percent pay cut because of the Depression. Fairbanks Jr. refused and was fired from the studio. He received a job offer from Britain and spent the next few years there.
"Hollywood was getting to be a grind", he said at the time. "They had me doing five and six pictures a year. Some of them looked all right on paper but they had the habit of slipping down into programmer class. Only once in three years would I get a part that I cared about. I kept going up and down the ladder and not getting any place. There was nothing stable about my career in Hollywood."
He intended to return to Hollywood to appear in Design for Living but fell ill on the way and Gary Cooper took his part. He did go back for Success at Any Price (1934) at RKO then returned to London for Mimi (1935). The latter starred Gertrude Lawrence, who became romantically involved with Fairbanks Jr. He announced he would make Zorro Rides Again with his father.
Fairbanks fell ill during the 1936 flu epidemic.
He did some films which he helped produce through his Criterion Films label: Man of the Moment (1935), The Amateur Gentleman (1936), Accused (1936), and Jump for Glory (1937) (directed by Raoul Walsh).
Return to Hollywood and focus on action roles
Fairbanks Jr. returned to Hollywood when David O. Selznick offered him the role of Rupert of Hentzau in The Prisoner of Zenda (1937). He had been reluctant to accept the role but his father urged him to do it, saying it was "actor proof". The movie was a big success.
In December 1937 he signed a non-exclusive contract with RKO to make two films a year for five years, at $75,000 a film.
RKO used him as Irene Dunne's leading man in Joy of Living (1938). At Universal he was Danielle Darrieux's co star in The Rage of Paris (1938) and Ginger Rogers's in RKO's Having Wonderful Time (1938).
Fairbanks Jr. began to work increasingly in action/adventure films: The Sun Never Sets (1939) at Universal; Rulers of the Sea (1939) at Paramount; Green Hell (1940) for James Whale at Universal, a flop; and Safari (1940) at Paramount.
His last film before enlisting was The Corsican Brothers (1941), a swashbuckler made as tribute to Fairbanks' father. Fairbanks did not have faith in the film while it was being filmed ("I thought we were cutting corners") but it was a huge success.
World War II
Although celebrated as an actor, Fairbanks was commissioned as a reserve officer in the United States Navy when the United States entered World War II and was assigned to Lord Mountbatten's Commando staff in the United Kingdom.
Having witnessed (and participated in) British training and cross-Channel harassment operations emphasizing the military art of deception, Fairbanks attained a depth of understanding and appreciation of military deception then unheard of in the United States Navy. Lieutenant Fairbanks was subsequently transferred to Virginia Beach where he came under the command of Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, who was preparing U.S. naval forces for the invasion of North Africa.
Fairbanks convinced Hewitt of the advantages of a military deception unit, then repeated the proposal at Hewett's behest to Admiral Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations. King thereupon issued a secret letter on March 5, 1943 charging the Vice Chief of Naval Operations with the recruitment of 180 officers and 300 enlisted men for the Beach Jumper program.
The Beach Jumpers' mission would simulate amphibious landings with a very limited force. Operating dozens of kilometers from the actual landing beaches and utilizing their deception equipment, the Beach Jumpers would lure the enemy into believing that theirs was the principal landing.
United States Navy Beach Jumpers saw their initial action in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Throughout the remainder of the war, the Beach Jumpers conducted their hazardous, shallow-water operations throughout the Mediterranean.
For his planning the diversion-deception operations and his part in the amphibious assault on Southern France, Lieutenant Commander Fairbanks was awarded the United States Navy's Legion of Merit with bronze V (for valor), the Italian War Cross for Military Valor, the French Légion d'honneur and the Croix de guerre with Palm, and the British Distinguished Service Cross.
Fairbanks was also awarded the Silver Star for valor displayed while serving on PT boats and in 1942 made an Officer the National Order of the Southern Cross, conferred by the Brazilian government.
Among his other exploits was the sinking of the corvette UJ-6083 (formerly the Regia Marina Gabbiano-class Capriolo) while in command of a mixed division of American PT Boats and British Insect-class gunboats plus assorted other small craft. Fairbanks commanded from HMS Aphis.
Fairbanks returned to Hollywood at the conclusion of World War II. He spent two years finding a comeback vehicle and picked Sinbad the Sailor (1947), which was not a big hit.
He followed it with The Exile (1947), another swashbuckler, which Fairbanks wrote and produced; it was directed by Max Ophuls. The film was the first of three independent films Fairbanks was to produce - the others being a big screen version of Terry and the Pirates, and a film called Happy Go Lucky. It was another box office disappointment.
He thought his career would be revived by That Lady in Ermine with Betty Grable but director Ernst Lubitsch died during production and was replaced by Otto Preminger; the resulting film was not a success and Fairbanks Jr believes this cost his career momentum.
As a confirmed Anglophile, Fairbanks spent much time in the United Kingdom, where he was well known in the highest social circles. He was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1949 and moved there in the early 1950s.
Between 1954 and 1956 he also made a number of half-hour programs at one of the smaller Elstree film studios as part of a syndicated anthology series for television called Douglas Fairbanks Presents.
He guest starred on shows such as Route 66, The DuPont Show of the Week, The United States Steel Hour, The Red Skelton Hour, Dr. Kildare, and ABC Stage 67. He played King Richard in a TV musical The Legend of Robin Hood (1968).
On stage, Fairbanks toured in My Fair Lady in 1968, and in The Pleasure of His Company several times, including tours in the U.S. in 1970–72 and the 1977 Australian production with Stanley Holloway, David Langton, Carole Ray and Christine Amore.
His first notable relationship was with the actress Joan Crawford, whom he began to date seriously during the filming of Our Modern Maidens. Fairbanks and Crawford married on June 3, 1929 at St. Malachy in New York City. Fairbanks was only 19; Crawford was four years older.
They travelled to Britain on a delayed honeymoon, where he was entertained by Noël Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Beatrice Lillie, and Prince George, Duke of Kent. He became active in both society and politics, but Crawford was far more interested in her career and had an affair with Clark Gable. In his first autobiography he would later admit that he was also unfaithful during that period and that he unsuccessfully pursued Katharine Hepburn during the filming of Morning Glory. The couple divorced in 1933, but the divorce would not become final for another year.
Despite their divorce, Fairbanks was quick to defend Crawford when her adopted daughter Christina Crawford published Mommie Dearest, a scathing biography of Crawford's personal life. He firmly stated, "The Joan Crawford that I've heard about in Mommie Dearest is not the Joan Crawford I knew back then." In his autobiography he would state that he never saw a hint of any significant anger outbursts from Crawford during their marriage and that she was more likely to sulk or argue than become angry.
On April 22, 1939, Fairbanks married Mary Lee Hartford (née Mary Lee Epling), a former wife of Huntington Hartford, the A&P supermarket heir. He remained devoted to her until her death in 1988. They had three daughters: Daphne, Victoria and Melissa, as well as eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Fairbanks was a friend of Laurence Olivier and was among the contributors to a documentary by The South Bank Show called Laurence Olivier: A Life. He was also a close friend of Sir Rex Harrison and was a presenter at Harrison's New York City memorial service.
He wrote his autobiography, Salad Days, in 1988. In addition, Fairbanks wrote a chronicle of his experiences during the Second World War, A Hell of a War published in 1993. Beyond his two volumes of autobiography, Fairbanks collaborated with Richard Schickel on the illustrated survey of Fairbanks Sr. and Jr. called The Fairbanks Album (1975) and Jeffrey Vance with a critical study/biography of Fairbanks Sr. ultimately published as Douglas Fairbanks (2008).
Death and legacy
Fairbanks has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures at 6318 Hollywood Boulevard, one for television at 6665 Hollywood Boulevard and one for radio at 6710 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1969 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Best Dressed List.
The moving image collection of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is held at the Academy Film Archive and includes over 90 reels of home movies.
- American Aristocracy (1916)
- The Three Musketeers (1921)
- Stephen Steps Out (1923)
- The Air Mail (1925)
- Wild Horse Mesa (1925)
- Stella Dallas (1925)
- The American Venus (1926)
- Padlocked (1926)
- Broken Hearts of Hollywood (1926)
- Man Bait (1927)
- Women Love Diamonds (1927)
- Is Zat So? (1927)
- A Texas Steer (1927)
- Dead Man's Curve (1928)
- Modern Mothers (1928)
- The Toilers (1928) (extant; Library of Congress)
- The Power of the Press (1928)
- The Barker (1928)
- A Woman of Affairs (1928)
- The Forward Pass (1929)
- The Jazz Age (1929)
- Our Modern Maidens (1929)
- Fast Life (1929)
- The Show of Shows (1929)
- The Careless Age (1929)
- The Way of All Men (1930)
- Loose Ankles (1930)
- Outward Bound (1930)
- The Dawn Patrol (1930)
- The Little Accident (1930)
- One Night at Susie's (1930)
- Party Girl (1930)
- Little Caesar (1931)
- Chances (1931)
- I Like Your Nerve (1931)
- It's Tough to Be Famous (1932)
- Union Depot (1932)
- Love Is a Racket (1932)
- Scarlet Dawn (1932)
- L'athlète incomplete (1932)
- Parachute Jumper (1933)
- The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933)
- The Narrow Corner (1933)
- Morning Glory (1933)
- Captured! (1933)
- Success at Any Price (1934)
- The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934)
- Man of the Moment (1935)
- Mimi (1935)
- Accused (1936)
- The Amateur Gentleman (1936)
- Jump for Glory (1937)
- The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
- Joy of Living (1938)
- The Rage of Paris (1938)
- Having Wonderful Time (1938)
- The Young in Heart (1938)
- Gunga Din (1939)
- Rulers of the Sea (1939)
- The Sun Never Sets (1939)
- Green Hell (1940)
- Safari (1940)
- Angels Over Broadway (1940) - also producer
- The Corsican Brothers (1941)
- Sinbad the Sailor (1947)
- The Exile (1947)
- That Lady in Ermine (1948)
- The Fighting O'Flynn (1949)
- State Secret (1950)
- Mister Drake's Duck (1951)
- The Triangle (1953)
- The Genie (1953)
- Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958) - producer only
- The Crooked Hearts (1972) (TV movie)
- The Hostage Tower (1980)
- Ghost Story (1981)
- Strong Medicine (1986)
|1946||Screen Guild Players||The Old Lady Shows Her Medals|
Awards and honors
- Silver Star
- Legion of Merit
- American Defense Service Medal with "A" device
- American Campaign Medal
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
- Naval Reserve Medal
- Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1949 (KBE, United Kingdom)
- Knight of the Order of St John (KStJ, United Kingdom)
- Knight of the Legion of Honor (France)
- Officer of the Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil)
- Distinguished Service Cross (United Kingdom)
- Croix de Guerre, 1939-1945 with bronze palm (France)
- War Cross for Military Valor (Italy)
- Federal Cross of Merit, Commander's Cross (West Germany)
- Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal
- "Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Film Star, TV Producer and Good-Will Ambassador, Dies at 90". The New York Times. May 8, 2000. p. B7.
- Bawden & Miller (2016), p. 94.
- "Stephen Steps Out". The Mail. 12 (622). Adelaide, Australia. 19 April 1924. p. 13. Retrieved 20 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. to get $1,000 a week". The Washington Post. May 24, 1923 – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Thomas, K. (November 5, 1978). "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. At 68: Semiretired 'Actor Fellow'". Los Angeles Times – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- "Youth Has High Hopes For Future". Los Angeles Times. April 24, 1927 – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- "Douglas Fairbanks Jr". Chicago Daily Tribune. November 23, 1947 – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Bawden & Miller (2016), p. 96.
- Gruen, J. (March 16, 1989). "Halcyon Hollywood Douglas Fairbanks Jr. remembers the Golden Age in Tinseltown". Chicago Tribune – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Bawden & Miller (2016), p. 99.
- "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Returns". The New York Times. December 10, 1933 – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- "'Flu. Epidemic In England". The Courier-Mail (810). Brisbane, Australia. 3 April 1936. p. 17. Retrieved 20 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- Sweeney, Louise (November 17, 1989). "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. blames the public for tasteless films". The Christian Science Monitor – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Schallert, E. (December 28, 1937). "Irene Dunne, Fairbanks and Grant Sign Long Contracts with R.K.O." Los Angeles Times – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Schultz, F. L.; O'Doughda, L. (October 1993). "An interview with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.: "A Hell of a War"". Naval History. 7 (3). U.S. Naval Institute.
- "Film Idol Who Walked With Kings". The Argus. Melbourne, Australia. 28 May 1955. p. 42. Retrieved 20 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Decretos de 7 de Setembro de 1941, Página 13, Seção 1". Diário Oficial da União (in Portuguese). 3 October 1941.
- "Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. awarded the Silver Star". The Christian Science Monitor. January 17, 1944 – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Taylor, Russ (2012). "H.M.S. Scarab, Royal Navy Insect Class River Gunboat, 1939–1945". Frank S. Taylor Family and Royal Navy History.net.
- Schallert, Edwin (20 June 1946). "'Exile' to Head Doug's Independent Program". Los Angeles Times.
- "Fairbanks Agrees to Make 3 Films: Actor and International Sign Production Deal--He Will Have Lead in 'The Exile' Laraine Day as Alice Adams Of Local Origin". The New York Times. 20 June 1946.
- Bawden & Miller (2016), p. 103.
- D.O.J.M. (February 11, 1949). "Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., star of 'Fighting O'Flynn'". The Christian Science Monitor – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Bawden & Miller (2016), p. 105.
- Halliwell's Television Companion (3rd ed.). Grafton Books. 1986.
- J. G. (January 9, 1953). "Radio and Television". The New York Times – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Schallert, Edwin (8 October 1956). "Grant, Tierney ideal 'Prescott Affair' duo; Lyceum plan on slate". Los Angeles Times. p. C11.
- "Wedding At York; Wedding Of Prince Edward". British Pathé. 1961.
- Page, D. (January 19, 1968). "Another Fairbanks roams Sherwood Forest". Los Angeles Times – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- "The old-fashioned charm of (Sir) Douglas, actor and gentleman". The Australian Women's Weekly. 44 (35). Sydney, Australia. 2 February 1977. p. 4. Retrieved 20 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to set Drury Lane mark". Chicago Tribune. November 29, 1970 – via State Library of NSW. (registration required)
- Alleman, Richard (March 6, 2013). New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York. Crown/Archetype. p. 131. ISBN 978-0804137782.
- Chandler, Charlotte (December 11, 2012). Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford: A Personal Biography. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1471105869.
- Alexander, Ron (April 20, 1988). "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Tells His Story (Some of It, That Is)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
- Alexander, Ron (April 20, 1988). "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Tells His Story (Some of It, That Is)". The New York Times.
- Hoge, Warren (August 16, 2000). "London Journal: A Sex Scandal of the '60s, Doubly Scandalous Now". The New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
- Hall, Sarah (10 August 2000). "'Headless men' in sex scandal finally named". The Guardian. London.
- "Fairbanks Denies Girl'S Story". The Canberra Times. 37 (10, 597). Canberra, Australia. 25 July 1963. p. 1. Retrieved 20 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- Fairbanks Jr., Douglas (1988). Salad Days. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-17404-6.
- Fairbanks Jr., Douglas (1993). A Hell of a War. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-08807-8.
- Schickel, Richard (1975). The Fairbanks Album. Boston: New York Graphic Society. ISBN 0-8212-0637-0.
- Vance, Jeffrey (2008). Douglas Fairbanks. Berkeley, CA: Academy Imprints/University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25667-5.
- "A touch of Autumn in the air". New York Social Diary. September 19, 2011. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
- "The International Hall of Fame: Men". Vanity Fair. July 7, 2011. Archived from the original on June 1, 2012.
- "Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Collection". Academy Film Archive.
- "Doyle New York's Auction of the Estate of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. on September 13, 2011 Tops $500,000". Doyle Auction House. September 13, 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- "E. & L. Barrymore With Fairbanks Jr., Star on Screen Guild Players". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 5, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved October 2, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Bawden, James; Miller, Ron (4 March 2016). Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-6712-1.
- McNulty, Thomas (2004). Errol Flynn: the Life and Career. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company Inc. ISBN 978-0-78641-750-6.
- Wise, James (1997). Stars in Blue: Movie Actors in America's Sea Services. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1557509379. OCLC 36824724.
- Douglas Fairbanks Jr. on IMDb
- "Obituary: Douglas Fairbanks Jr". The Daily Telegraph. 8 May 2000.
- "Photographs of Douglas Fairbanks Jr". Virtual-History.com.
- "Fairbanks, Jr, Douglas Elton Ulman (Oral history)". Imperial War Museum. July 31, 1984.
- "Douglas Fairbanks Jr KBE DSC (1909-2000)". The Big Red Book.
- Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and the Beach Jumpers 9:55 video