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Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr

Born: December 9, 1909
Country: USA
Died: 7th May, 2000
Occupation: Actor, Producer, Screenwriter

Though Fairbanks was cut from the same swashbuckling cloth as his silent era start father, Douglas Fairbanks Sr, he never made as great an impression amongst the movie going public. Perhaps because he made a greater variety of films so wasn't forever cast as one "type".

With acting in his blood, his mother (Fairbanks Sr's first wife) Anna Beth Sully was an actor too (his stepmother, "America's Sweetheart", Mary Pickford), it was perhaps inevitable that he would enter the profession and this he did, starting out as a juvenile lead at the age of 13. He went on to become a star in his own right, winning aclaim for such movies as Gunga Din. His private left similary hit the headlines, his first wife was Joan Crawford and he counted members of the British royal family amongst his friends.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr meeting King George VI aboard the USS Washington at Scapa Flow during WWII

As well as for his movies we'll remember Fairbanks for his great love of Britain (he was awarded an Honorary Knighthood in 1949 for "furthering Anglo-American amity" ) and his service in the Navy during World War II. When Britain declared war, Fairbanks was hosting a party aboard a chartered yacht for a group of his friends from the movie business. Laurence Olivier, Vivian Leigh and Ronald Colman amongst them. Even though he was American Fairbanks felt as desolate as his British friends and his immediate reaction was to sign up right away "if they'll have an American". Those years cemented his love for Britain, and he served under Lord Louis Mountbatten, uncle of Prince Philip (the husband of Queen Elizabeth). He soon became a popular member of their circle of friends. As a movie fan I'll always have a special place in my heart for Douglas Fairbanks Jr, but as a Brit there's an even bigger one in appreciation for the love and affection he had for our country. Here's to you Doug!

Movie Picks

Highlight from the poster art for Fairbanks Jr starrer Safari, his leading lady was Madeleine Carroll

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937). I'm a big fan of Ronald Colman movies anyway, but even I must admit that Fairbanks was a complete scene stealer with his portrayal of Rupert of Hentzau. Mischievous, dashing, laughing away; he is a joy to watch and this is without a doubt my favourite performance of his.

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Gunga Din (1939). With a wonderful cast (Fairbanks, Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Sam Jaffe in the title role), and deeds of derring do, the adventure film is both funny, fast paced and deeply moving. Something to please all tastes.

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Sinbad the Sailor (1947). Those of you that read my contributions to our Classic Era section of the forum messageboard will know I am a big fan of swashbuckling adventures and Arabian Nights tales. Sinbad is one of those tongue-in-cheek ones which I absolutely revel in. Maybe because it appears that the stars concerned where having as much fun making it as the audiences would watching it. Douglas Fairbanks Jr's leading lady in this movie was the wonderful Maureen O'Hara, another star who seemed made for such roles. Add another swashbuckler stalwart, Walter Slezack, and a certain Anthony Quinn, who would go on to much greater things, and there's the perfect recipe for a fun movie.

- Movie Cat



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