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PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

September 18, 2014

DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR.

FAIRBANKS

FAIRBANKS

 

Douglas Elton Ulman Fairbanks Junior was born December 9, 1909. Junior was born into Hollywood Royalty, the son of silent film super-star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and heiress Beth Sully.

It was only natural that Fairbanks followed his father’s footsteps into the movie business at age 13. He was featured in several silents and early talkies. Douglas was under contract at various times to Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers. Fairbanks made nowhere near the impact on audiences as his famous father, but managed to carve out a respectable career.

His most noteworthy early effort was a co-starring role with Edward G. Robinson in the classic gangster drama, Little Cesar. A few good roles followed in The Prisoner of Zenda, Having Wonderful Time and others. Undoubtedly his most famous film is he roaring adventure yarn, Gunga Din.

Fairbanks made headlines off-screen when he wed fellow movie-star Joan Crawford in 1929. Neither Senior or step-mother Mary Pickford approved of the match. They tried to be tolerant of Joan, but made it clear that she did not belong in their rarefied orbit. By 1933 the marriage was over.

The actor continued occasional ┬ámovie work and dabbled in several business ventures. ┬áHe had no difficulty stepping right into television when that medium became popular in the 1950s. He gave a creditable film performance in 1981’s Ghost Story, where he appeared with movie veterans Melvyn Douglas, Fred Astaire and John Houseman.

I met Mr. Fairbanks briefly in the early 1980s when he made a local appearance to promote the American Movie Classics Network. This was back in the day when AMC really did present fine old films before their present incarnation. He was just as suave and charming in person as you would have expected.

He passed away on May 7, 2000 at the age of 90.

 

 






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