Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood

Douglas Fairbanks in Wild and Woolly
Douglas Fairbanks in Don Q. Son of Zorro
Douglas Fairbanks in Wild and Woolly (top) and Don Q. Son of Zorro (bottom). Below right, Fairbanks can be seen in The Matrimaniac.

The exhibition “Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood” will premiere on Saturday, January 24, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Fourth Floor Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.

As per the Academy's press release, the exhibition will focus on superstar Douglas Fairbanks' “multifaceted life as a movie star, studio [co-]founder [that's United Artists], philanthropist and civic leader through film clips, movie posters, props, costumes, original documents and stunning photographic imagery. The exhibition spans from his earliest days in silent films through his transition into talkies, delves into his famous marriage to Mary Pickford and spotlights his friendships with such fellow Hollywood legends as Charlie Chaplin.” (By the way, the other UA founders were Pickford, Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith.)

Douglas Fairbanks in The MatrimaniacHere's hoping that the exhibit will feature some interesting information on Fairbanks' behind-the-scenes life, considering that his fairy-tale marriage to Pickford ended in a bitter divorce involving a third party (Sylvia Ashley), and that Fairbanks had a troubled relationship with son Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (from a previous marriage).

Among Fairbanks' most successful films are his adventure epics of the 1920s, including The Mark of Zorro, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, Don Q Son of Zorro, The Black Pirate, The Gaucho, and The Iron Mask.

Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood
Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood

“Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood” has been organized in conjunction with the publication of the Academy's new book Douglas Fairbanks. Written by Jeffrey Vance with Tony Maietta, and with Robert Cushman as photographic editor, the book “examines Fairbankss' art and ventures behind his public persona, showcasing more than 200 photographs, some unseen for more than 75 years.”

The exhibition is presented in association with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, whose collection includes a number of the artifacts that will be on display.

Douglas Fairbanks in The Gaucho
Douglas Fairbanks in The Gaucho

“Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood” will be open to the public through Sunday, April 19, in the Academy's Fourth Floor Gallery, located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit

Photos: Courtesy of AMPAS

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3 Comments to Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood

  1. Tom Cole

    Douglas Fairbanks: this guy was one of a kind. Regardless of the older films and in todays films with CGI and fantatic sets and locations, he was a winner, a showman, entertainer all rolled into one.

  2. Dany Mercury

    I disagree with the person who said that Douglas Fairbanks overacted.

    He was a wonderful actor. He was brilliant in every role, and he made me laugh in the first movie of his that I ever saw, “The Mark Of Zorro,” during the scene in which Sergeant Gonzales tells Don Diego Vega how he will take care of Zorro. The facial expressions of Mr. Fairbanks were sublime.

    I remember first hearing about him in “Chaplin.” I was seven years old. I was more interested by him than Charles Chaplin, who also happens to be one of my favourites.

    He is practically unsurpassed, in the domain of cinema.

    Mr. Fairbanks was not the first King of Hollywood. He was the Emperor.

  3. Janice

    I still love to watch Fairbanks movies. They never get tiring to me. I think he had a way to broadcast his character to the audience which very few actors could do as well.

    I I also agree that Meryl is todays Queen of Hollywood.