Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood
An exhibition presented in association with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Organized in celebration of the Academy’s book Douglas Fairbanks
Swashbuckler extraordinaire, actor, comedian, civic leader, heartthrob, industry mogul... Douglas Fairbanks was all that and more. Fairbanks is one of the few silent stars whose work still resonates with audiences today. His success was based on his own unique blend of charisma and physical exuberance, and he was one of the first modern film stars.
“Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood” explored all aspects of the life and career of the man who starred in, wrote and produced such films as “The Three Musketeers,” “The Thief of Bagdad” and “The Black Pirate.”
Rare props and costumes donated by Fairbanks to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in the 1930s, many of which have not been seen in decades, were on display, along with previously unpublished photographs from the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and materials from the Academy’s Douglas Fairbanks Collection. These artifacts, combined with film clips and a treasure trove of Fairbanks materials from the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, including original documents, movie posters and photographs, formed one of the richest and most diverse exhibitions ever dedicated to a silent star.
Fairbanks’s legacy is farther reaching than that of most of his peers, and the swashbuckler genre he developed remains as popular as ever. Fairbanks’s stardom was international and he took advantage of that, traveling around the world to hobnob with royalty, politicians, and the social elite.
An enthralling presence on screen, Fairbanks was a savvy businessman off screen, forming United Artists in 1919 with his one-time boss D.W. Griffith, future wife Mary Pickford and best friend Charlie Chaplin. Fairbanks was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, serving as the Academy’s first president from 1927 to 1929.
The exhibition also provided glimpses into Fairbanks’s fairytale marriage to Mary Pickford and their life at Pickfair, the legendary estate that was a humble hunting lodge in the wilds of Beverly Hills when Douglas Fairbanks purchased it in 1919. Afterward many film stars settled in the area, because where Pickford and Fairbanks led, others soon followed.
“Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood” told the story of the man and his legacy, both personal and professional.