Douglas Fairbanks

Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks cropped.jpg
Douglas Fairbanks, c. late 1910s
Born
Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman

(1883-05-23)May 23, 1883
DiedDecember 12, 1939(1939-12-12) (aged 56)
Resting placeHollywood Forever Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
EducationDenver East High School
OccupationActor, director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1899–1934
Spouse(s)
ChildrenDouglas Fairbanks Jr.

Douglas Fairbanks (born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman; May 23, 1883 – December 12, 1939) was an American actor, screenwriter, director, and producer.[1] He was best known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films including The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and The Mark of Zorro but spent the early part of his career making comedies.

Fairbanks was a founding member of United Artists. He was also a founding member of The Motion Picture Academy and hosted the first Oscars Ceremony in 1929. With his marriage to Mary Pickford in 1920, the couple became Hollywood royalty and Fairbanks was referred to as "The King of Hollywood",[2] a nickname later passed on to actor Clark Gable.

Though widely considered as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood during the 1910s and 1920s, Fairbanks' career rapidly declined with the advent of the "talkies". His final film was The Private Life of Don Juan (1934).

Early life

Fairbanks was born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman (spelled "Ulman" by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in his memoirs) in Denver, Colorado, the son of Hezekiah Charles Ullman (September 15, 1833 – February 23, 1915) and Ella Adelaide (née Marsh; 1847–1915). He had two half-brothers, John Fairbanks, Jr. (born 1873) and Norris Wilcox (February 20, 1876 – October 21, 1946),[3] and a full brother, Robert Payne Ullman (March 13, 1882 – February 22, 1948). His father was born in Berrysburg, Pennsylvania, and raised in Williamsport. He was the fourth child in a Jewish family consisting of six sons and four daughters. Charles's parents, Lazarus Ullman and Lydia Abrahams, had immigrated to the U.S. in 1830 from Baden, Germany.

When he was 17, Charles started a small publishing business in Philadelphia. Two years later, he left for New York to study law.

Charles met Ella Adelaide Marsh after she married his friend and client John Fairbanks, a wealthy New Orleans sugar mill and plantation owner. The couple had a son, John, and shortly thereafter John Senior died of tuberculosis. Ella, born into a wealthy southern Roman Catholic family, was overprotected and knew little of her husband's business. Consequently, she was swindled out of her fortune by her husband's partners. Even the efforts of Charles Ullman, acting on her behalf, failed to regain any of the family fortune for her.[citation needed]

Distraught and lonely, she met and married a courtly Georgian, Edward Wilcox, who turned out to be an alcoholic. After they had a son, Norris, she divorced Wilcox with Charles acting as her own lawyer in the suit. The pretty southern belle soon became romantically involved with Charles and agreed to move to Denver with him to pursue mining investments. They arrived in Denver in 1881 with her son, John. (Norris was left in Georgia with relatives and was never sent for by his mother.) They were married and in 1882 had a child, Robert and then a second son, Douglas, a year later. Charles purchased several mining interests in the Rocky Mountains, and he re-established his law practice. Charles Ullman, after hearing of his wife's philandering, abandoned the family when Douglas was five years old. Douglas and his older brother Robert were brought up by their mother, who gave them the family name Fairbanks, after her first husband.[citation needed]

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