Fairbanks: His Picture in the Papers


Today is the anniversary of the release date of the 1916 Douglas Fairbanks comedy His Picture in the Papers, written by Anita Loos and directed by her husband John Emerson

One of the most satirical of the Fairbanks comedies, it features Doug as a non conformist in a family that manufactures vegetarian health food. He lies around in bed all day smoking and drinking a cocktail. The young man hates the food his father sells.  At dinner, he sneaks out to get a steak at a restaurant. His health is just fine, he works out on barbells and Indian clubs and leaps over his bed to get the other side—that’s broad jumps up and over his bed. But he’s constantly in Dutch with his father.

Meanwhile his sisters make the front page of the Vegetarian Gazette. The problem is, Doug wants to marry his girlfriend, and his father won’t give consent or his fortune unless he proves his worth to the family enterprise. He is challenged to bring home some publicity for the family, just as his sisters have, as though it were the modern equivalent of hunting for meat. The bulk of the film works off this premise, as Fairbanks gets in mishap after mishap trying to get his name in the papers, and failing, failing, failing. Finally, the inevitable act of heroism, resulting in the ink, the girl and the fortune all in one stroke.

I should have such problems!

This is a great satire, one oddly even more topical now that it was then.

For more on Fairbanks and silent comedy film history don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc 

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