Fairbanks Jr., Douglas Biography
biography of Fairbanks Jr., DouglasDouglas Elton Ulman Fairbanks Junior
9 December 1909, New York City, New York, USA
7 May 2000, New York City, New York, USA (heart attack)
Although he appeared in approximately 100 movies or TV shows, Douglas Elton Ulman--better known as Douglas Fairbanks Jr.--never really intended to take up acting as a career. However, the environment he was born into and the circumstances naturally led him to be a thespian. Noblesse oblige. The son of future silent era swashbuckling idol 'Douglas Fairbanks' and Beth Sully--the daughter of a very wealthy cotton mogul--was born in 1909 and soon proved a gifted boy. To the end of his life he remained a multi-talented, hyperactive man, not content to appear in the 100 films mentioned above. Handsome, distinguished and extremely bright, he excelled at sports (much like his father), notably during his stay at the Military Academy in 1919 (his role in 'Claude Autant-Lara' (qv)'s "L'athlète incomplete" illustrated these abilities). He also excelled academically, and attended the Lycéee Janson de Sailly in Paris, where he had followed his divorced mother. Very early in his life he developed a taste for the arts as well and became a painter and sculptor. Not content to limiting himself to just one field, he became involved in business, in fields as varied as mining, hotel management, owning a chain of bowling alleys and a firm that manufactured popcorn. During World War II he headed London's Douglas Voluntary Hospital (an establishment taking care of war refugees), was President 'Franklin D. Roosevelt' (qv)'s special envoy for the Special Mission to South America in 1940 before becoming a lieutenant in the Navy (he was promoted to the rank of captain in 1954) and taking part in the Allies' landing in Sicily and Elba in 1943. A fervent Anglophile, was knighted in 1949 and often entertained 'Queen Elizabeth II' (qv) and 'Prince Philip' (qv) in his London mansion, "The Boltons". His film career began at the age of 13 when he was signed by Paramount Pictures. He debuted in _Stephen Steps Out (1923)_ (qv) but the film flopped and his career stagnated despite a critically acclaimed role in _Stella Dallas (1925)_ (qv). Things really picked up when he married Lucille Le Sueur, a young starlet who was soon to become better known as 'Joan Crawford (I)' (qv). The young couple became the toast of the town (one "Screen Snapshots" episode echoes this sudden glory) and good parts and success followed, such as the hapless partner of 'Edward G. Robinson (I)' (qv) in _Little Caesar (1931)_ (qv) a favorably reviewed turn as the villain in _The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)_ (qv) or more debonair characters in slapstick comedies or adventure yarns. The 1930s were a fruitful period for Fairbanks, his most memorable role probably being that of the British soldier in _Gunga Din (1939)_ (qv); although it was somewhat of a "swasbuckling" role, Fairbanks made a point of never imitating his father. After the World War II, his star waned and, despite a moving part in _Ghost Story (1981)_ (qv), he did not appear in a major movie. Now a legend himself, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. left this world with the satisfaction of having lived up to the Fairbanks name at the end of a life nobody could call "wasted".
- 'Vera Fairbanks' (qv) (30 May 1991 - 7 May 2000) (his death)
- 'Joan Crawford (I)' (qv) (3 June 1929 - 12 May 1933) (divorced)
- 'Mary Lee Eppling' (23 April 1939 - 14 September 1988) (her death); 3 children
- Son of 'Douglas Fairbanks (I)' (qv).
- Interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in same crypt with father, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
- His death was reported on the front page of the Times in London and Buckingham Palace expressed its condolences on his demise
- Created an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1949
- Cousin of 'Lucile Fairbanks' (qv).
- Nephew of 'Robert Fairbanks' (qv), 'John Fairbanks' (qv).
- Cousin-in-law of 'Owen Crump' (qv).
- He had a lifelong, cultivated interest in international affairs. In 1941 President 'Franklin D. Roosevelt' (qv) appointed him a special envoy to South America.
- He held the Silver Star and the Legion of Merit with V for valor in combat device from the U.S. government for his combat service in PT boats and gunboats.
- His father, 'Douglas Fairbanks (I)' (qv), was his best man at his marriage to Mary Lee Eppling.
- Had 3 daughters with Mary Lee Eppling; Daphne Nancy-Beth Fairbanks (born April 8, 1940), Victoria Susan Fairbanks (born 1942) and Melissa Louise Fairbanks (born October 25, 1947).
- Was awarded the British Distinguished Service Cross, the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre with Palm for his services during World War II.
- Biography in: "American National Biography". Supplement 1, pp. 196-197. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Brother-in-law of 'Hal Le Sueur' (qv).
- Host of an entertaining introductory film shown to visitors of the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C.
- Interviewed in "Talking to the Piano Player: Silent Film Stars, Writers and Directors Remember" by Stuart Oderman (BearManor Media).
- He was awarded 3 Stars on the HOllywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6318 Hollywood Boulevard, for Radio at 6710 Hollywood Boulevard, and for Television at 6661 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
- A heavy drinker.
- The grandfather of 8 grandchildren, from his 3 daughters with Mary Lee Eppling.
- (3/29/76) Appeared on "Take My Advice", a discussion program, along with 'Adrienne Barbeau' (qv) and 'Tom Smothers' (qv).
- (1951-52) Radio: Host/narrator of the syndicated show "The Silent Man".
- (4/30/59) Radio: Appeared on "Theater Guild on the Air" in the episode "Double Door" with 'Geraldine Fitzgerald (I)' (qv) and 'Florence Reed' (qv).
- (1916) Stage: Appeared in a production of "Young Woodley".
- Douglas Fairbanks Jr.. _The Salad Days._ Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1988.
- B. Connel. _Knight Errant._ 1955.
- Douglas Fairbanks Jr., with 'Richard Schickel' (qv). _The Fairbanks Album._ Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975.
- ['Clemence Dane' (qv) on Fairbanks] The trouble with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is that he likes everything he sees - and he sees everything.
- I was only saying to the Queen the other day how I hate name dropping . . .
- I never tried to emulate my father. Anyone trying to do that would be a second-rate carbon copy.
- [speaking in 1990] I suppose many people don't even know if I'm still alive - well, perhaps I'm not.
- [on 'Edward G. Robinson (I)' (qv)] I will never forget the pleasure and instruction I derived from working with a true master of his art, such as Edward G. Robinson was -- and is. Surely his record for versatility, studied characterization -- ranging from modern colloquial to the classics -- and artistic integrity is unsurpassed. Furthermore, everyone who has worked with him recalls with pleasure his considerable personal charm.
- [on 'Irene Dunne' (qv)] Nothing is instinctive, everything she does is very carefully thought out, she knows her camera and lighting as well as any cameraman, she knows every movement, every intonation, every nuance. She's a first-class craftswoman. But instead of being dull and perfect, she's absolutely enchanting and perfect.
- [on 'Joan Crawford (I)' (qv)] She was always so arduous and working so hard at everything; at dancing, on her looks, on her speech and on her carriage. She was dedicated to self-improvement.
- _Chaplin (1992)_ (qv)
- _Gunga Din (1939)_ (qv) -> $117,000
- "America in WWII" (USA), October 2009, Vol. 5, Iss. 3, pg. 36-41, by: Tom Huntington, "Hollywood Hero in a Very Real War"
- "The Economist" (UK), 13 May 2000, pg. 94, "Obituary: Douglas Fairbanks, junior"
- "America in WWII" (USA), October 2009, Vol. 5, Iss. 3
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