Reported in the News Letter on December 13, 1939: Hero of the silent films, Douglas Fairbanks, dies after heart attack


Douglas Fairbanks senior, one of the most famous actors produced by Hollywood in its silent film days, died early yesterday morning at his home in Santa Monica, California, after a heart attack.

He had been ill since Monday [December 11] but it was thought a rest would restore him. When he died, his wife – formerly the wife of Lord Ashley – was at his bedside.

Fairbanks – who was 56 – married her in March 1936. In January 1935 he had been divorced by his former wife, the even more famous film star, Mary Pickford, whom he had married in 1920.

Fairbanks was a virile actor. On the screen he was continually represented as a doer of daring deeds. “The Three Musketeers”, “Robin Hood”, and “The Black Pirate” were films after his own heart. Another of his pictures was “The Private Life of Don Juan”.

Fairbanks’ interest in motion pictures did not end with acting. He wrote many of his earlier scenarios and to all intents and purposes was often his own director.

The characteristics Fairbanks displayed in his acting were present also in his private life. He was a skilful boxer, a good swimmer and polo player, and an excellent horseman. He was very fond of travel. In the autumn of 1929 he and his wife set out on a trip round the world. It was like a triumphal tour, for their fame was worldwide. In 1931 Fairbanks again travelled round the world.

Fairbanks was born at Denver, Colorado, and was educated at the Jarvis Military Academy and Colorado School of Mines. His family knew many stage folk, and at 17 he joined a New York repertoire company giving performances of Shakespeare’s plays. Later he tried stockbroking but went back to the stage and was a Broadway “star”, when he was persuaded to act in the films.

Douglas Fairbanks junior, also a well-known film actor, is the child of Fairbanks’ marriage – his first – with a Miss Sully, daughter of a cotton merchant.