Douglas Fairbanks, born Douglas Elton Ulman, May 23, 1883 in Denver, Colorado. d. December 12, 1939

There are people in this world who confuse Douglas Fairbanks with his son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. This is primarily due to the fact that dad was a star of silent movies while his son had more success in the talkies. However, the son blazed his own path while dad was one of the first film actors to see the possibilities of actors getting involved in the production end of motion pictures.

Fairbanks' own father was a scholar whose studied drama, especially Shakespeare. Young Douglas was put up on the stage, but he wasn't fulfilled by the stage. He wanted something more. He wanted to be in film and be seen by the world. Flamboyant and extroverted, Fairbanks saw movies as his destiny.

So, in 1915, Fairbanks made his debut in The Lamb, which at the time was all the rage in the theatre. He became a cash cow for the Triangle Film Company and averaged almost a dozen films a year. Most of his early films were comedies in which he played a man of means who seeks excitement and adventure, a genre of the silent film industry that Fairbanks pretty much made his own.

He married the actress Mary Pickford and became best pals with Charlie Chaplin. In 1919 the trio spearheaded the move to create a new film company in which the actors would have control over their own movies. The formation of United Artists by Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin and director D.W. Griffith prompted an executive of one of the established studios to utter the famous line "The lunatics have taken over the asylum!" Yes, kids, now you know. Aren't you glad you tuned in to "In Search Of..." tonight?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, United Artists and how its formation caused actors to take more active roles in the production end of their films. Fairbanks used his brainchild to become even more successful, moving from his usual comedy roles in the swashbucklers. His first such film, The Mark of Zorro, was incredibly successful, and so Fairbanks jumped onto the bandwagon and stayed there. The most memorable, 1924's The Thief of Baghdad and 1926's The Black Pirate are still in demand today.

The emergence of sound in movies, the talkies, was the death knell for Fairbanks. He wasn't afraid of them, and in fact was excited by the opportunities they presented. However, for whatever reason, they fell flat with the viewing public. His first talkie, Taming of the Shrew was a complete bust, and subsequent films failed to sail as well. In his last film, The Private Life of Don Juan showed him in such a state of disrepair that audiences moaned in contemplation of what had become of this one time heroic figure.

The end was near. Fairbanks' wild and extravagant lifestyle, coupled with marital and financial problems and bad health, took him down. In 1939 he died in his sleep. Not long after, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. would step into his father's acting shoes and prove that a Fairbanks could take command of the talking motion picture.


Some information step and fetched from allmovie.com,
How To Rewire Old Dead Actors for Fun and Profit by Leo T. Riccearonni
and a lot of other sources I will not admit I use. Ever.

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