Douglas Elton Ulman Fairbanks, Jr.|
Born: December 9, 1909 - New York City, New York, USA
Died: May 7, 2000 (heart attack; Parkinson's disease)
Spouses: Joan Crawford, 1929-1933 (divorced); Mary Lee Hartford, 1939-1988 (her death); Vera Shelton, 1991-2000 (his death). Had three daughters with Hartford.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was born in New York City, the son of actor Douglas Fairbanks and his first wife, Anna Beth Sully. His parents divorced when he was nine years old. He lived with his mother in New York, California, Paris and London.
Fairbanks' father was one of cinema's first icons, noted for swashbuckling adventure films. Largely on the basis of his father's name, Fairbanks, Jr. was given a contract with Paramount Pictures at age 14. After making some undistinguished films, he took to the stage, where he impressed his father, his stepmother Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin, who encouraged him to continue with acting.
He began his career during the silent film era. He initially played mainly supporting roles in a range of films featuring many of the leading female players of the day. In the last years of the silent period, he was upped to star billing in several pre-Code films, and appeared with his future wife Joan Crawford in Our Modern Maidens (1929). The coming of the sound era brought him greater commercial success, in films such as Outward Bound (1930), The Dawn Patrol (1930), Little Caesar (1931), and Gunga Din (1939). At first he avoided taking on the action-star image of his father, but he eventually proved his own swashbuckling talents in films such as The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), The Corsican Brothers (1941), and The Exile (1947).
Fairbanks was commissioned as a reserve officer in the United States Navy at the onset of World War II, and assigned to Lord Louis Mountbatten's Commando staff in England. Having witnessed (and participated in) British training and cross-channel harassment operations emphasizing the military art of deception, Fairbanks attained an understanding and appreciation of these tactics that was then unheard of in the United States Navy. For his planning of diversion-deception operations and his part in the amphibious assault on Southern France, Lieutenant Commander Fairbanks was awarded the United States Navy's Legion of Merit with bronze V (for valor), the Italian War Cross for Military Valor, the French Légion d'honneur and the Croix de guerre with Palm, and the British Distinguished Service Cross. Fairbanks was also awarded the Silver Star for valor displayed while serving on PT boats. He was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) in 1949. He stayed in the Naval Reserve after the war, and ultimately retired as a captain in 1954.
Fairbanks returned to Hollywood at the conclusion of World War II, but he also spent a considerable amount of his time in the United Kingdom, where he was well known in the highest social circles. His feature films became more sporadic after the 1940s, his screen appearances through the 1980s being largely made for television.
In May of 2000, at the age of 90, he died of a heart attack in New York. He is interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California, in the same crypt as his father.