1984 20¢ Performing Arts: Douglas Fairbanks
US #2088 was issued on Fairbanks’s 101st birthday.

Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman was born on May 23, 1883 in Denver, Colorado.

His father, Charles Ullman, served in the Civil War and founded the US Law Association, which later became the American Bar Association. After Charles abandoned the family in 1888, Douglas’s mother reverted her and her son’s last name to that of her first husband, Fairbanks.

Douglas Fairbanks discovered his love of acting at a young age. He began his career performing summer shows at the Elitch Gardens Theatre. Fairbank also worked with Margaret Fealy, who ran an acting school for Denver’s children.

After leaving school at the age of 15, Fairbanks joined Frederick Warde’s acting troupe. For two years he traveled the country acting and working as assistant stage manager. Fairbanks then left the group hoping to find success on Broadway. He had his first role there in Her Lord and Master in 1902. Fairbanks appeared in a number of Broadway plays in the coming years, including the popular A Gentleman From Mississippi. In between Broadway appearances, Fairbanks worked in a hardware store and as a clerk in a Wall Street office.

1984 20¢ Douglas Fairbanks First Day Maximum Card
Item #M84-27 – Fairbanks First Day Maximum Card

After marrying Anna Beth Sully and having a child (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) Fairbanks moved the family to Los Angeles where he signed a contract with Triangle Pictures in 1915. There he began a working relationship with D.W. Griffith and appeared in his first film, The Lamb, which showed off the athletic abilities that would later make him famous.

The following year Fairbanks created his own company, the Douglas Fairbanks Film Corporation, and soon began working with Paramount. That year he also met Mary Pickford (who he married in 1920). In 1917 Fairbanks, Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin traveled the country selling war bonds (click here to read about one particular drive).

1998 32¢ Celebrate the Century - 1910s: Charlie Chaplin
US #3183a – Chaplin was a close friend and ally throughout Fairbanks’s career.

By this time, Fairbanks, Pickford, and Chaplin were the three highest-paid actors in Hollywood. To avoid being taken advantage of by the studios, the three of them and D.W. Griffith created United Artists in 1919, which granted them complete creative control over their films and the profits.

The following year, Fairbanks and Pickford were married. Known separately as “Everybody’s Hero” and “America’s Sweetheart,” they became one of the first celebrity couples and were dubbed “Hollywood Royalty.”

After just five years in Hollywood, Fairbanks had made 29 movies which were largely comedies displaying his athleticism. Wanting to branch out, Fairbanks proposed a type of costumed adventure film. The first of these films, The Mark of Zorro, premiered in 1920 and was a huge success. Fairbanks became a superstar and would produce many more swashbuckling films for the rest of his career. Some of the most famous were The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Black Pirate (1926), and The Gaucho (1927).

1994 29¢ Silent Screen Stars: Charlie Chaplin
US #2821 – Chaplin stamp from the Silent Screen Stars set

Throughout the 1920s Fairbanks was at the top of his career. He, Pickford, and Chaplin established the Motion Picture Fund to aid people in the film industry that couldn’t pay their bills. He also took part in the first hand and foot print ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, was elected president of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, and hosted the first Academy Awards.

Fairbanks’ declining health and the introduction of “talkies” in the late 1920s and ’30s brought about the decline of his career. Though he continued to act in talking films through 1934, he never achieved the same success he had with silent films. Fairbanks died on December 12, 1939, with his last words being, “I’ve never felt better.”

FREE printable This Day in History album pages
Download a PDF of today’s article.
Get a binder or other supplies to create your This Day in History album.  

Discover what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
4.9/5 - (66 votes)
Share this Article

13 Comments

  1. One comment……the product would be even better if someone other than the writer of these daily pieces would take the time to do a simple “proof read” in order to correct the few items in each writing that need to be modified.

    1. You’re kidding me this is your problem with the article the spelling grow up read the article enjoy it were not in school and it’s a free service

  2. I find the pieces excellent as written. Keep up the good work. Some people are never happy unless they are complaining

  3. Everyday I enjoy the short history lesson. It brings back the joy of stamp collecting as a boy from a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn who became interested in geography, science, history and biography from the stories that stamps told. Indirectly it led to a life long interest in scholarship and learning. I wish elementary school teachers can encourage students to appreciate stamp collecting as way to learn about the world we live in.

  4. Fourth Paragraph first sentence, “After being leaving school at the age of 15” seems to be something wrong. Not sure what the author was trying to say, but perhaps the being needs to be removed.

  5. If you are looking for perfection try another planet–maybe MARS. This service is not paid for by the readers so just read it and go on. As long as the facts are straight I can deal with it. If they are wrong then correction is needed. Like the other comment said–some people just like to complain./

  6. I enjoy these fascinating trips through time as much as I do collecting stamps. Keep up the great work!

  7. Good direction to take stamps, knew of these people but before my time. Always thought Errol Flynn was the follow up Fairbanks.

    Regards, R

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *