Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Born: December 9, 1909
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.
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!
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.
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.
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