Archive for the Douglas Fairbanks Category

Douglas Fairbanks in “The Half-Breed”

Posted in Douglas Fairbanks, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Westerns with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2015 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the film The Half-Breed (1916), starring Douglas Fairbanks. Based on a story by western writer Bret Harte, it was adapted for the screen by Anita Loos and directed by Allan Dwan.

It’s an unusual film for Fairbanks. It was released at a time when nearly all of his pictures were comedies or adventure/comedies. This one feels more like straight-up western melodrama, with perhaps a jigger of magical whimsy, Fairbanks being Fairbanks (and Loos being Loos).  Doug plays a wild “half breed” who lives in a tree in the forest.  He is known as “The Wilderness Man”. He meets a girl (Alma Rubens) when he chases drunken Indians away from the front of her house. It comes down to a choice between the nice girl and a rowdy girl from the faro parlor (Jewel Carmen) who escapes from her pimp into the forest. But this is Hollywood. No one ever winds up with the bad girl. And since it’s a Fairbanks vehicle it’s not just a bunch of lovey-dovey scenes and conversations. In addition to his many fights against entire gangs of ruffians, he also dives off a cliff into a river and swims across, and performs a hair-raising rescue during a forest fire. The film was thought lost for many years until prints began to turn up in the late 1970s, and various reconstructions and restorations over the years have resulted in the watchable prints we enjoy today.

To learn more about silent film history please check out my 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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Douglas Fairbanks: “Reggie Mixes In”

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Douglas Fairbanks, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , on June 11, 2015 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Douglas Fairbanks comedy Reggie Mixes In (1916).

“Fresh from college”. When we first met Doug he is sleeping in bed, doesn’t want to wake up—that is frequently how we first meet his character in his comedies: pampered, privileged. His butler (Wilbur Higby) is his sidekick throughout the movie, an awesome formula which would be repeated many times. Doug’s version of morning calasthenics—he does a trick on a chair, leaps over a table, does a handstand.

His girlfriend calls and comes over; you can tell he’s not crazy about her. She assumes they’ll be married. Then one day he is driving with his butler and sees a little ragamuffin by the side of the road. She says she’s lost. He brings her home….which turns out to be a tenement house.

While there, Doug spies a girl he fancies a great deal (Bessie Love). He conceives of a scheme. He and his butler dress like two common men of the neighborhood…a very funny scene where this is introduced. They take a room in the neighborhood. They go to a local saloon where she works as a waiter girl. (Great gag: avoiding a gang fight at one point he jumps up on chandelier and hangs there above it). The girl teases him about being afraid. Later when she is leaving, a masher won’t stop bothering her,. Doug beats him down. Her boss sees and hires him to be the bouncer. He has an altercation with the boss one day when he expects the girl to be “friendlier” with the customers. He is about to be fired, but then the boss relents and admits that he’s right. Doug is such a good scout that he refrains from kissing his girl goodnight, just shakes her hand.

Meantime, the former bouncer, the guy Doug beat down earlier, assigns guys from his gang to plug him. The guy jumps him as he’s leaving her place, they fight. Doug bests him. As he leaves the building. he sees another suspicious character with a gun following him. He climbs up the outside of the building and waits, then jumps down on the guy., knocking him out. He throws the guy through the window of the gang’s hangout. The guys try to follow him but the cops stop them.

Meanwhile, Doug’s mother throws a costume ball to try to lure him back home. He shows up, does a funny dance. Everyone thinks he’s wearing a costume, but it’s just his clothes from the neighborhood. (Doug is always the definition of a gentleman. He doesn’t hate the people from his old world — he likes them. He is simply above class. He isn’t trying to convince anyone else to be him). He sees his old girl, realizes she’s not for him. She does however send him a note which his new girl finds. She is hurt and angry. She sits with the bad guys. Doug straightens everything out. The bad guy challenges him to the old “two guys go in a room, one comes out” bit (a but which he also used in The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, released on the same day and also featuring Bessie Love).  Of course Doug is the one who comes out. Now he tests the girl…he fakes a $100k inheritance for he so she’s rich. Then he shows up as poor guy and proposes marriage. She accepts. He comes back a few minutes later in evening clothes. They embrace.

For more on silent and slapstick 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 amazon.com etc etc etc

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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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Douglas Fairbanks in “A Modern Musketeer”

Posted in Douglas Fairbanks, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on December 30, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Douglas Fairbanks picture  A Modern Musketeer (1917), written and directed by Allan Dwan, based on “D’Artagnan of Kansas”, by E.P. Lyle, Jr. As always Doug plays a fellow who daydreams about heroism and glory. In this case he’s an employee at The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Women. He sees a woman being harassed out on the street, leaps out the window and rescues her from her tormentor only to learn that he is her boyfriend and she doesn’t want to be rescued. In flashbacks we learn that since babyhood, his mother raised him to be a latter day D’Artagan. (His enthusiasm is the funniest feature of the movie. His character is constantly turning handsprings, leaping over things, climbing buildings….) He sets out in car in search of adventures. And finds them in spades. He winds up meeting folks on vacation in the American southwest, including a mother (Lathleen Kirkham) who is forcing her daughter (Marjorie Daw)  to marry a rich jerk. Doug rescues her from the bad husband as well as a kidnapping Indian and a derelict, winning the girl thereby.

This picture must have whet Doug’s appetite for the subject matter…four years later he was to play D’Artagnan for real in The Three Musketeers. 

For more on comedy film history 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 amazon.com etc etc etcchain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500To find out about  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.

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Douglas Fairbanks in “When the Clouds Roll By”

Posted in Comedy, Douglas Fairbanks, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , on December 28, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Douglas Fairbanks comedy When the Clouds Roll By (1919 ) , directed by Victor Fleming.

Fairbanks plays a young Wall Street worker who is being used as a test subject by an evil scientist. The doctor’s confederate is undercover as Doug’s Butler, feeding him lots of bad food and crazy ideas so he will have bad dreams. (The hallucinatory dreams are the best part of the movie, Lots of crazy special effects). Doug becomes very fearful and superstitious. Repeatedly shows up to work late. His boss (who happens to be his uncle) suspends him. He meets a girl who is just as superstitious as he is and falls for her. Unfortunately she is promised to another (an unscrupulous purveyor of oil deals). After much mishigas Doug is fired, loses his mind and is sent to a sanitarium. Then the coincidences begin to pile up (even more than they had been). It turns out the mad scientist is actually an escaped lunatic from the asylum. Doug gets his wits back and then has the opportunity to rescue his girl from a flood when a dam breaks. Along the way, of course, many of his spectacular stunts. And then the pair are married when a church floats by with a preacher conveniently perched on the roof!

For more on comedy film history 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 amazon.com etc etc etcchain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500To find out about  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.

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Douglas Fairbanks in “The Americano”

Posted in Comedy, Douglas Fairbanks, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on December 24, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Douglas Fairbanks film The Americano (1916), written by Anita Loos and John Emerson, directed by the latter and shot by Victor FlemingLike many of his earlier films the movie is a comedy/romance/adventure hybrid, this one perhaps a little light on the comedy and heavy on the adventure…

Doug plays a young mining engineer sent to liaise in the fictional central American country of Paragonia, which has unfortunately just had a coup. His zeal to get involved is given a booster shot by the fact that he is in love with the pretty daughter (Alma Rubens)  of the diplomat who came to New York to cut the deal. He goes down to South America, to learn that the mines have been seized and lay idle. A ruthless general has taken power. His stupid scheme is to nationalize the mines, cutting out American capital and expertise. Hence the mines are useless because he has no way to exploit them and the people are out of work. Meanwhile he has promised the girl Doug loves to a colonel in marriage. Thus Fairbanks is at the center of both dilemmas. He is about to rescue the rightful president (a secret cave leads under the jail which is at the top of a picturesque sea cliff), when he is seized by the usurpers. They want him to help them with the mines and to announce his cooperation at the same ceremony at which his girl will marry the colonel the next day. He pretends to comply. Then goes and rescues the president, beats up the bad guys and appears on a balcony in front of a crowd with the president. He marries the girl and is now head of the army.

Along the way, there is a smattering of slapstick, such as a bit where he is trying to eat and a palm frond keeps slapping him in the face. And his sidekick — zut alors! — is played by a man in blackface. Charlie Chaplin’s future wife Mildred Harris has a small role as a stenographer.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please 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 amazon.com etc etc etc

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To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Douglas Fairbanks in “The Matrimaniac”

Posted in Comedy, Douglas Fairbanks, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , on December 16, 2014 by travsd

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December 16, 1916 was the release date of The Matrimaniac, starring Douglas Fairbanks and Constance Talmadge.

This is one of the most physical, action-packed Fairbanks comedies, the whole picture essentially one long white-knuckle chase. Fairbanks and Talmadge are on their way to elope, with the girl’s father and a rival for her hand in hot pursuit. Doug manages to put his girl on a train, but misses it himself when he goes to get the minister. So then it’s a race to catch up to the train in various conveyances before the father and boyfriend can reach the girl. Later the sheriff comes into it — and Fairbanks’ acrobatic heroics are truly breath-taking. To stop the rival from stealing his bride, he leaps between buildings, hops over a six foot man, climbs on electrical wire, scales the side of a house, jumps from a cliff onto a tree….needless to say in the end, he achieves his objective. I often think of this comedy as a model for the climax to Harold Lloyd’s Girl Shy. Quite possibly the most watchable of all of Fairbanks’ romantic comedies.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please 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 amazon.com etc etc etc

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To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Douglas Fairbanks in “Double Trouble”

Posted in Comedy, Douglas Fairbanks, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on December 5, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of Douglas Fairbanks’ second film Double Trouble (1915), directed by Christy Cabanne. Long thought lost, this feature turned up in an archive several years ago, although it is seldom screened and is not available on home video. It is Fairbanks’ first vehicle devised especially for the screen. (He had starred in the stage version of his previous film The Lamb first) Based on a novel by Herbert Quick, it concerns an effeminate, weak banker named Florian Amidon (Fairbanks) who gets hit on the head and develops a alter ego, the aggressively masculine and adventurous Eugene Brassfield. Thus it was fully in keeping with the weak-to-strong Fairbanks formula, and set him up well for his next film His Picture in the Papers (1916).

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please 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 amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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