Douglas Fairbanks in “The Habit of Happiness”


Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Douglas Fairbanks comedy The Habit of Happiness (1916). Directed and co-written by Allan Dwan, the film once again casts Doug as the misfit son in a family of wealthy social climbers. His character, Sunny Wiggins has a theory that health and wealth may be obtained merely by adopting a cheerful outlook, smiling and laughing, the titular “Habit of Happiness”. His family think he is just a bum. Mostly because he has literally been consorting with a pack of homeless men, whom he has been trying to teach his philosophy. (Funny anecdote: to play these men, the studio recruited a bunch of actual homeless guys. The only way Fairbanks could get them to laugh was to use a lot of foul, dirty language. Lip readers can catch it in the film). Eventually, Sunny gets his first client, an industrialist so melancholy that he has hired a special cellist just to play dirges for him. Fortunately, this man, whom Sunny cures, turns out to be the father of the girl he wants to marry AND a friend of his own father, to whom he relays glowing reports. A happy ending — how could it be otherwise?

For more on comedy film history see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc


For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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