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Douglas Elton Fairbanks, Jr., KBE, DSC was an American actor and a highly decorated naval officer of World War II.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was born in New York City, the only child of actor Douglas Fairbanks and his first wife, Anna Beth Sully. His parents divorced when he was nine years old, and both remarried. He lived with his mother in New York, California, Paris and London.
Fairbanks's father was one of cinema's first icons, noted for such swashbuckling adventure films as The Mark of Zorro, Robin Hood and The Thief of Bagdad. 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: Belle Bennett in Stella Dallas (1925), Esther Ralston in An American Venus (1926) and Pauline Starke in Women Love Diamonds (1927). In the last years of the silent period, he was upped to star billing opposite Loretta Young in several pre-Code films and Joan Crawford in Our Modern Maidens (1929). He supported John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in A Woman of Affairs (1928). Progressing to sound, he played opposite Katharine Hepburn in her Oscar-winning role in the film Morning Glory (1933).
With Outward Bound (1930), The Dawn Patrol (1930), Little Caesar (1931), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), and Gunga Din (1939), his movies began to have more commercial success.
|Poster for "The Prisoner of Zenda"|
Fairbanks and Crawford married on June 3, 1929 at St. Malachy in New York City. Fairbanks was only 19, Crawford was four years older. He became active in both society and politics, but Crawford was far more interested in her career and had an affair with Clark Gable. The couple divorced in 1933.
On April 22, 1939, Fairbanks married Mary Lee Hartford (née Mary Lee Epling), a former wife of Huntington Hartford, the A&P supermarket heir. He remained devoted to her until her death in 1988. They had three daughters: Daphne, Victoria, and Melissa, as well as eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
On May 30, 1991, Fairbanks married Vera Lee Shelton, a merchandiser for QVC Network Inc.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him special envoy to South America.
Although celebrated as an actor, Fairbanks was commissioned 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 the United Kingdom.
Lieutenant Commander Fairbanks led a distinguished military career, For his planning the diversion-deception operations and his part in the amphibious assault on Southern France, he 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 and the National Order of the Southern Cross, conferred by the Brazilian government. Among his other exploits was the sinking of the light cruiser Capriole while in command of a mixed division of American PT Boats and British Motor Gun Boats. He was instrumental in the Beach Jumper program.
Fairbanks stayed in the Naval Reserve after the war and ultimately retired as captain in 1954.
Fairbanks returned to Hollywood at the conclusion of World War II, but as a confirmed Anglophile, he spent a considerable amount of his time in the United Kingdom, where he was well known in the highest social circles. He was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1949. In 1961, he was a guest at the wedding of Katharine Worsley with Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.
In 1982, Fairbanks was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit for his contribution to the relief of the needy in occupied Germany.
Fairbanks has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures at 6318 Hollywood Boulevard, one for television at 6665 Hollywood Boulevard and one for radio at 6710 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1969 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Best Dressed List.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA Plot Large reflecting pool west of the Cathedral Mausoleum
Memorial ID 9611
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