Douglas Fairbanks: Comes Up Smiling


The man whose name became synonymous with “swashbuckler” began his adult life in tame enough a fashion. After a brief stint at Harvard and a desultory early stab at the theatre he married Anna Beth Sully in 1907 and went work as an executive at her father’s soap factory. When that didn’t work out, he tried to make himself into a stock broker. Finally, when he just couldn’t stand it anymore, he plunged back into the theatre. He toured vaudeville in 1912 with the comic one-act A Regular Business Man (type-casting). After a role in the Broadway show He Comes Up Smiling, he returned to vaud in 1914 with a playlet called All at Sea. He broke into films in 1915, and worked steadily on celluloid for many years. (Interestingly, for the first 5 or so years of his movie career he made light comedies; there is a big section on him in my new book Chain of Fools).

He became a superstar with his swashbucking costume dramas of the 20s, such as The Mark of Zorro (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921) and The Thief of Bagdad (1924). In 1920 he married Mary Pickford, “America’s Sweetheart”. In 1933, Pickford did her own vaudeville time at the New York Paramount with a short play called The Church Mouse.

DISTINGUISHED PROGENY: Why, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, of course.


To find out more about  these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from etc etc etc



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.