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Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

Douglas Fairbanks (May 23, 1883December 12, 1939) was an American actor, screenwriter, director and producer.

He became noted for his swashbuckling roles in such movies as The Black Pirate, The Mark of Zorro , Arizona , Robin Hood , The Thief of Bagdad, and The Three Musketeers.

He was born Douglas Elton Ulman in Denver, Colorado, the son of Hezekiah Charles Ulman (born September 1835) and Ella Adelaide Marsh (born 1850). His half-brother was John Fairbanks (born 1873); and his full brother was Robert Payne Ulman (March 13, 1882-February 22, 1948).

His father, Charles, who was born in Pennsylvania, was a prominent New York City attorney. Doug's mother, who was born in New York, had previously been married to a man named John Fairbanks and was left a widow. She then divorced another man named Wilcox, who turned out to be an abusive brute, with the help of her lawyer, Ulman, who she later married. In about 1881, Charles Ulman purchased several mining interests in the Rocky Mountains and relocated the family to Denver, where he re-established his law offices. Charles abandoned the family there when Doug was five years old and he and Robert were raised by their mother.

Doug attended Colorado School of Mines and Harvard University. He worked in a hardware store and as a clerk in a Wall Street office before appearing on the Broadway stage in 1902.

In 1907, Fairbanks married Anna Beth Sully, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist; they had one son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. They moved to Hollywood in 1915.

While traveling with Charlie Chaplin in a War bonds drive, he met and fell in love with Mary Pickford. He, Pickford, Chaplin and D.W. Griffith formed United Artists in 1919. He and Beth were divorced in 1920.

Fairbanks and Mary Pickford married on March 18, 1920. During the years of their marriage, Fairbanks and Pickford were regarded as "Hollywood Royalty," and they became famous for entertaining at their Beverly Hills estate, Pickfair. His and Pickford's hand and foot prints were the second and third, after Norma Talmadge, to be placed in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

He was a founder of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences and produced its first Academy Awards program.

He and Pickford separated in 1933 and were divorced in 1936. On March 7, 1936, Fairbanks married his third and last wife, Sylvia Ashley. He lived in retirement with Sylvia at 705 Ocean Front (now Pacific Coast Highway) in Santa Monica, California.

At fifty-six years of age, he died in his sleep of a heart attack at around 12:45 a.m. in Santa Monica. His funeral service was held at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather Church at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, where he was placed in a crypt in the Great Mausoleum. His widow, Sylvia, then commissioned an elaborate monument for him in another cemetery, with long rectangular reflecting pool, raised tomb, and classic Greek architecture, and he was removed from Forest Lawn. He is entombed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood.

Douglas Fairbanks' hand and foot prints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7020 Hollywood Boulevard.

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45