Sunday Matinee: Douglas Fairbanks

Douglas Fairbanks was one of silent films pioneering actors. He started working with D.W. Griffith for Triangle Pictures in 1915. Despite his athleticism, he was used in mostly romantic comedies but it didn’t stop him for making the odd adventure film. In 1919 he, along with Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford formed United Artists Productions to help maintain their independence from the major Hollywood studios who disliked paying them astronomical salaries (Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks were the highest paid actors in 1917).

In 1920, Fairbanks made a new type of adventure film. The Mark of Zorro (1920). It featured Fairbanks dressed as the now famous masked swashbuckling hero. It was a huge hit and Fairbanks continued making costumed adventures films that featured amazing stunts and cool sword fights. The era of the swashbuckler was born. The Three Musketeers (1921),Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924) and one of my favourites The Black Pirate (1926) were just a few of the movies that he made.

By the 1930’s when sound hit, Fairbanks made only a few movies. By then he was in poor health and the films were poorly received. By 1934, he had retired from acting. In 1939 he died from a heart attack. He was 56.

The Mark of Zorro (1920)

The Black Pirate (1926)

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.

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