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Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

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Also Known As: Douglas Elton Ulman Fairbanks Died: May 7, 2000
Born: December 9, 1909 Cause of Death: Parkinson's disease
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: producer, executive, actor, author, screenwriter, screen title writer, businessman

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

More voguishly handsome than his father, the Prince of Pickfair Douglas Fairbanks Jr lacked Senior's ability to completely dominate a film and make lackadaisical scripting and monotonous directing almost bearable, but he was certainly an extremely likable and talented actor in his own right. Coaxed into movies by Jesse Lasky, anxious to have the pull of the Fairbanks name, he alienated his father by debuting as a juvenile lead at the age of 13 in "Stephen Steps Out" (1923), causing Senior to remain hostile to his career for many years. On his way to full-fledged stardom, Fairbanks took his turn on the boards in a 1927 production of John Van Druten's "Young Woodley" before practically upstaging the great Greta Garbo with his off-beat riveting performance as her alcoholic brother in "A Woman of Affairs" (1928). He also gave filmgoers a special treat, doing impressions of John Barrymore, John Gilbert and his own father in "Our Modern Maidens" (1929), the picture which brought him and first wife Joan Crawford together. Fairbanks saw his star gradually rise during the early 30s beginning with pictures like Howard Hawks' "Dawn Patrol", Robert Milton's "Outward Bound" and Mervyn Le Roy's "Little Caesar"...

More voguishly handsome than his father, the Prince of Pickfair Douglas Fairbanks Jr lacked Senior's ability to completely dominate a film and make lackadaisical scripting and monotonous directing almost bearable, but he was certainly an extremely likable and talented actor in his own right. Coaxed into movies by Jesse Lasky, anxious to have the pull of the Fairbanks name, he alienated his father by debuting as a juvenile lead at the age of 13 in "Stephen Steps Out" (1923), causing Senior to remain hostile to his career for many years. On his way to full-fledged stardom, Fairbanks took his turn on the boards in a 1927 production of John Van Druten's "Young Woodley" before practically upstaging the great Greta Garbo with his off-beat riveting performance as her alcoholic brother in "A Woman of Affairs" (1928). He also gave filmgoers a special treat, doing impressions of John Barrymore, John Gilbert and his own father in "Our Modern Maidens" (1929), the picture which brought him and first wife Joan Crawford together.

Fairbanks saw his star gradually rise during the early 30s beginning with pictures like Howard Hawks' "Dawn Patrol", Robert Milton's "Outward Bound" and Mervyn Le Roy's "Little Caesar" (all 1930). He gave a fine handling of the male lead in "Morning Glory" (1933) managing to avoid being blown off the screen by Katharine Hepburn in her first Oscar-winning performance. Soon thereafter, he went to Britain to play the Tsar in "Catherine the Great" (1934, opposite Elisabeth Bergner), and remained there for close to three years, making his next five movies as well as his first foray into producing with Raoul Walsh's "Jump for Glory" (1937). Fairbanks could swashbuckle with the best of them as he displayed in pictures like "The Prisoner of Zenda" (also 1937), "Gunga Din" (1939) and "The Corsican Brothers" (1941), but it may have been Max Ophuls' "The Exile" (1947), which he also scripted, that displayed his physical prowess at its best. Critic David Thomson, however, takes issue, claiming it was a mistake to compete with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. as a swashbuckler and that screen evidence suggests Junior would have been more successful as a gigolo, weakling or black sheep of the family. Fairbanks' cultured presence and voice also made him a natural for comedies like "The Rage of Paris" and "Joy of Living" (both 1938).

After his World War II heroics, Fairbanks acted in a handful of pictures before temporarily retiring as an actor after "Mr. Drake's Duck" in 1951. Though he produced a few features during the 50s, he turned primarily to television, hosting, producing and sometimes acting in the British anthology series "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents" (1953-57), and of his remaining rare screen performances, almost all were for TV, notably "The Crooked Hearts" (ABC, 1972, with Rosalind Russell), "Arthur Hailey's 'Strong Medicine'" (Syndicated, 1986) and the ABC Mystery Movie "Auntie Sue" (1989). He made his feature swan song in "Ghost Story" (1981), acting with fellow old timers Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas and John Houseman. Fairbanks favored the stage in his later career, playing Professor Henry Higgins in a 1968-69 national tour of "My Fair Lady", as well as touring in "Present Laughter and "Sleuth", among other shows. As one of the last links to a glorious Hollywood past, he has frequently turned up in numerous feature and TV documentaries "American Cinema" (PBS, 1995), the Oscar-nominated "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" (1995) and segments of A&E's "Biography" devoted to Loretta Young and John Wayne.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Mary Pickford: A Life on Film (2000) Interviewee
5.
 Auntie Sue (1989) Edward A W White
6.
7.
 Ghost Story (1981) Edward Wanderley
8.
 Hostage Tower, The (1980) Malcolm Philpott
9.
 Churchill the Man (1973) Narration
10.
 Crooked Hearts, The (1972) Rex Willoughby
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Lived in Paris with mother after her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks
1923:
Film acting debut in the silent "Stephen Steps Out"
1925:
Portrayed the suitor to Lois Moran's Laurel in the silent version of "Stella Dallas", starring Belle Bennett and Ronald Colman
1927:
Made stage debut in John Van Druten's "Young Woodley" in Los Angeles and on tour in San Francisco
1928:
Wrote titles for "The Gaucho", starring his father
1928:
Practically upstaged the great Greta Garbo in "A Woman of Affairs" with his off-beat riveting performance as her alcoholic brother; most felt he did upstage leading man John Gilbert
1928:
Debut in talking pictures, "The Barker"
1929:
Appeared in "Our Modern Maidens" with then-wife Joan Crawford
1930:
Acted in Howard Hawks' "Dawn Patrol"
1933:
Portrayed Joseph Sheridan in "Morning Glory", a picture dominated by Katherine Hepburn in her first Oscar-winning role
1934:
Went to Britain to play the Tsar opposite Elizabeth Bergner in "Catherine the Great"; remained in England for close to three years, making five more movies before returning to Hollywood
1934:
London stage debut, "Moonlight Is Silver"
1935:
Formed own production company
1935:
Debut as film producer, "The Amateur Gentleman"; also starred
1937:
Gave thrilling performance as attractive blackguard Rupert von Hentzau in "The Prisoner of Zenda"; first US movie since 1934; film reteamed him with Ronald Colman
1938:
Starred opposite Irene Dunne in delighful screwball musical comedy "Joy of Living"
1939:
Played one of the three soldier-comrades (along with Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen) in George Stevens' "Gunga Din"
1939:
Helped organize British War Relief and was national chairman of CARE
1939:
Headed and was personally reponsible for Douglas Voluntary Hopitals in Great Britain
1940:
Had starring role in the uneven jungle adventure "Green Hell", helmed by James Whale
:
Appointed Presidential Envoy for Special Mission to South America by Franklin D Roosevelt
1941:
Dashingly swashbuckled his way through dual role as "The Corsican Brothers"
:
Served in WWII as Lieutenant Commander in US Navy; saw active duty aboard destroyer and mine sweeper (1941-1942); served as operations officer for Special Operations, US Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet (1942-1944)
:
Served as National Chairman of CARE and Share-through CARE committees
1947:
Perhaps showed his athletic prowess to best advantage in Max Ophuls' "The Exile"; also produced and scripted from Cosmo Hamilton's novel "His Majesty the King"
1949:
Produced, starred and co-wrote screenplay for "The Fighting O'Flynn"
1951:
Retired temporarily from acting after "Mr. Drake's Duck"
1951:
Formed The Dougfair Corporation
:
Hosted and produced British-filmed TV anthology series, "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents"; also acted in some of the episodes (aired in syndication in the USA under the title "Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents The Rheingold Theater")
1958:
Produced the feature "Chase a Crooked Shadow", directed by Michael Anderson
1966:
Played Ambassador Otis in a musical version of Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost" (adapted by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock); aired on "ABC Stage '67"
1967:
Made rare big screen appearance in Tony Richardson's drama fantasy short "Red and Blue", acting with the director's then-wife Vanessa Redgrave; last film for 14 years
:
Starred as Henry Higgins in national tour of "My Fair Lady"
1971:
Served as Naval member of the US military delegation to SEATO conference in London
1972:
TV-movie debut as a wealthy bachelor targeted by a con woman (Rosalind Russell in her final screen role) in "The Crooked Hearts" (ABC)
1981:
Made one-shot return to feature acting alongside Fred Astaire, John Houseman and Melvyn Douglas in "Ghost Story"; last film appearance as a fictional character
1981:
Hosted and narrated the syndicated series "The Amazing Years of Cinema"
1985:
Was one of the interviewees for "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey", a feature documentary directed by George Stevens Jr
1985:
Began hosting "The Compleat Gilbert & Sullivan" (PBS)
1986:
Played Eli Camperdown in syndicated miniseries, "Arthur Hailey's 'Strong Medicine'"
1988:
Was interviewee for the feature documentary "Going Hollywood: The War Years"
1989:
Had final acting role in "Auntie Sue", an episode of "B.L. Stryker" (ABC)
1995:
Appeared as an interview subject in the Oscar-nominated documentary "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" (later aired on PBS in 1996)
:
Made frequent appearances as an interview subject on TV documentaries spotlighting such talents as Cole Porter, Loretta Young and Vivian Leigh, and others about WWII
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Bovee Art School: New York , New York -
Collegiate School: New York , New York -
Knickerbocker Greys: New York , New York -
Pasadena Polytechnic: Pasadena , California -
Harvard Military Academy: Los Angeles , California -

Notes

"The Salad Days: An Autobiography by Douglas Fairbanks Jr" and "A Hell of a War" are the first two installments of a proposed tri-part autobiography.

He has actively supported film preservation.

Made an honorary Knight by the King of England for his furthering of "Anglo-American amity" in 1949

Awarded the Silver Star Medal

Received Combat Legion of Merit with a "V" for valor clasp

Awarded Croix de Guerre with palm in 1949

Given the Legion of Honor

Earned British Distinguished Service Cross as the only US officer to command a flotilla of raiding craft for Mountbatten's Commandos

Received Belgian Order of the Crown

Given the American Image Award (1976)

Awarded the World Affair Council's Award for Contribution to World Understanding and Peace (1978)

Made a Fellow of Boston University in 1978

Received Salvation Army's National Brotherhood Award (1980)

Received honorary degrees from Westminster College (1966) and Oxford University (1971), among others

Douglas Fairbank Jr's first appearance before the cameras occurred at a party during his boyhood. His father and cameraman (later director) William McGann applied makeup and then filmed a 400 feet version of "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" with Junior in the leading role.

On marriage: "I don't think that married people ought to be conscious of the fact that they are married. They ought to live in sin, so to speak ... it is a very good thing to attempt to keep up the relationship that existed before marriage--to keep right on courting your wife ... The moment you take your wife for granted, it loses its charm and you lose your perspective. Nothing is sure. In marriage you ought to live with the constant knowledge before you that if you don't work at marriage you may lose the one you love ... If you had a job and knew you might lose it, you would work all the harder to keep it ... Marriage is a career in itself. To succeed in any career you have to keep working on it. The same thing is true for marriage. You must keep right on building it up just as you built its foundations. The minute you think your marriage is sure, that minute your marriage becomes most unsure." --Douglas Fairbanks Jr, quoted in Silver Screen, June 1930.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Joan Crawford. Actor. Married on June 3, 1929; divorced in 1933.
wife:
Mary Lee Hartford. Married from April 22, 1939 until her death in September 1988.
wife:
Vera Shelton. Merchandiser. Married on May 30, 1991 in New York; merchandiser for the Home Shopping Network; met 26 years before marriage in Acapulco, Mexico.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Douglas Fairbanks. Actor, producer, screenwriter.
mother:
Beth Sully. Actor. Married to Douglas Fairbanks from 1907 to 1919.
step-mother:
Mary Pickford. Actor, executive. Married to Douglas Fairbanks from 1920 to 1935.
step-mother:
Sylvia Ashley. Former chorus girl. Married to Douglas Fairbanks from 1936 until his 1939 death.
step-father:
Jack Whiting.
daughter:
Daphne Fairbanks Kay. Mother, Mary Lee Hartford.
daughter:
Victoria Fairbanks Vangerbig. Mother, Mary Lee Hartford.
daughter:
Melissa Fairbanks Morant. Mother, Mary Lee Hartford.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Knight Errant"
"The Fairbanks Album"
"The Salad Days" Doubleday
"A Hell of a War" St. Martin's Press
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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