DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS SR


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Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.!) was born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman in Denver, Colorado in 1883. His father was a prominent New York Jewish lawyer, and he met Doug's mother (who was 17 years younger than he) when she was getting divorced from her second husband (he was her lawyer). They married, and he soon relocated to Denver, where Doug was born when his mother was 33 and his father was 50, but his parents separated when Doug was 5, and his mom changed his last name to Fairbanks, which was not her maiden name, but which had been the name of her first husband! Doug acted as a child, and did quite well on the stage as a teen, but was constantly in trouble and did not graduate high school. He may have attended another school and also Harvard, but if so he was expelled from both! Shortly after the turn of the century he moved to New York, and he made his Broadway debut in 1902. In 1907 he married, and in 1909 their son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., was born. In 1915 he moved to Hollywood, where he began making adventure movies, where he demonstrated the great physical skills that marked most of his greatest successes, and by 1918 he was Hollywood's most popular and highest paid actor. He started an affair with Mary Pickford (then the highest paid actress) and in 1918 he was divorced, and he married Pickford in 1920, and in 1922 they moved into "Pickfair", their palatial Beverly Hills estate. In 1919, Fairbanks, Pickford, Charlie Chaplin (Fairbank's best friend), and D.W. Griffith had formed United Artists together, and in the 1920s he would make his greatest movies for United Artists, including The Mark of Zorro, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, and many more! But by the late 1920s Fairbanks was aging, and his health was not great, and he had difficulty performing the kind of stunts he had become famous for. In 1929 he and Pickford together made their first talkie, The Taming of the Shrew, but the movie was not very successful, and he only made three more before retiring in 1934. Meanwhile, son Doug Jr., who had been in movies since the mid-1920s adapted great to sound, and was a top romantic lead, marrying Joan Crawford in 1929. Doug Sr. separated from Pickford in 1933 after he began an affair with Lady Sylvia Ashley, and he divorced in 1936, with Mary keeping Pickfair. He married Lady Ashley that year, and in 1939 he had a heart attack after working out (his last words were "I've never felt better") and he passed away at age 59. In 1937 Pickford had married movie star Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, who was 12 years younger than she, and they remained married until she passed away in 1979. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was the greatest action adventure star of all time, and I highly recommend seeing as many of his 1920s classics as you can, because they are truly amazing movies! I wish those who make action adventure movies today would study Fairbanks' movies, so they can see what is missing from their efforts.
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