Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was an actor that seemed destined for stardom. However, the late star claimed that he got into the profession by accident. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. received his name from his father, who was the famous actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. While one might’ve assumed that Douglas Fairbanks Sr. would’ve been happy to have seen his son follow in his footsteps, he was anything but! The father never approved of the son’s career path, and the two had a contentious relationship. Join Facts Verse as we explore how Douglas Fairbanks Jr. never got his father’s blessing.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Was Reluctantly Born Into Stardom
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was born in New York City in 1909. As is evident right in the future star’s name, his father was known other than popular performer Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. became known in Hollywood thanks to his roles in multiple swashbucklers after his son’s birth. At the time that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was born, his father was still struggling to find success as an actor. It seems that the thespian bug proved infectious in the Fairbanks household, as Douglas Fairbanks Jr. became emulating his father’s passion for the performing arts early on. However, acting wasn’t the only thing that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. proved exceptional at from a young age. The boy also excelled at sports during his school years, and got exceptional grades.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s schooling was rigorous, as his father intended for the boy to become much more than just a simple actor. At his father’s behest, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. became something of a jack-of-all-trades over the course of his education. However, the boy’s artistic flair couldn’t be quelled. In addition to acting from a young age, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. also took up sculpting at painting as a child.
Douglas Fairbanks Sr. would’ve liked to see his child become a businessman instead of an actor. When it became apparent that he wasn’t going to get his way, the father was incredibly unhappy. Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s dream for his son to become a businessman would still come true eventually, though. After finding success as an actor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. branched out into other endeavors during his lifetime. These endeavors were incredibly varied, and they included such things as owning and operating a chain of bowling alleys. Other credits that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. had to his name by the time of his death include working in hotel management, mining, and popcorn manufacturing.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Became Involved in the War Effort
Besides branching out into business after becoming better known as an actor, other interesting things that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. did over the course of his lifetime involved his work during World War II. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. befriended Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly before America became involved with the war effort. As a result of the friendship, the actor did some work at a hospital for war refugees in London, and even became a lieutenant in the Navy in 1940. Over a decade later, he was promoted to the rank of captain. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was even knighted for his work!
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. certainly lived a varied and interesting life, but it’s undeniable that his accomplishments on film are the ones that he remains best known for. Despite this, the actor never got his famous father’s blessings when it came to his cinematic achievements. Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s career in the entertainment began when he was only 13 years old. He signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, and he appeared in the 1923 film Stephen Steps Out.
Stephen Steps Out is notable for being Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s film debut, but it’s not notable for being anything else. The film underperformed at the box office, and this didn’t bode well for the actor’s career in the years that immediately followed. In 1925, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. drew some positive attention from the critics thanks to his role in the film Stella Dallas. Still, the film wasn’t a big success with audiences. It wasn’t until Douglas Fairbanks Jr. became romantically involved with Joan Crawford that he started making waves.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s Marriage to Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford was rising to prominence at the same time as Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and the couple became the talk of the town thanks to their public appearances together. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. infamously protested when his son announced that he was going to marry Joan Crawford. Joan was a few years older than Douglas Fairbanks Jr., which caused his father to refer to her disparagingly as a “cradle-robber”. Due to the fact that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was set to inherit plenty of money from his famous father, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. also asserted that Joan was likely a gold-digger.
It may not have been the best decision romantically, but marrying Joan Crawford was certainly the right choice for Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s career. The tabloid fodder that became of him and Joan created a buzz resulted in the actor getting lots of attention. In turn, this attention translated into the actor starting to pull in numbers at the box office. In 1931, the actor made a successful appearance in the film Little Caesar. Other successful films that the actor appeared in during the decade include 1937’s Prisoner of Zenda and 1939’s Gunga Din. Notably, Gunga Din was one of the only films in which the actor performed a swashbuckling role.
Douglas Fairbanks Sr. had become known in Hollywood for his roles in swashbucklers, and his son was adamant that he wasn’t going to follow in the footsteps of his father too closely. Over the course of the 1930s, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. proved that he had it in him to become every bit as big of a star as his father. However, the actor’s decision to become involved in World War II during the following decade put a halt to his career momentum. When the actor returned home from the war, he found that there wasn’t much work in Hollywood for him. It was around this time that the actor branched out into the aforementioned other endeavors.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Was Married Three Times
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s last big role was in the 1981 movie Ghost Story. Following this rare appearance on the big screen, the actor kept a low profile up until his death in May of 2000. At the time of his death, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was married to a woman by the name of Vera. He and Vera married in 1991, and their 10th anniversary was weeks away at the time of the actor’s death. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was married to Joan Crawford from 1929 to 1934. In between Joan and Vera, the actor was married to a woman by the name of Mary Lee Eppling for many, many decades.
Mary Lee Eppling appears to have been the true love of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s life. The two were married from 1939 until 1988, and the marriage only came to an end on account of Mary’s tragic death. Over the course of their marriage, the two had three children together. Those three children were the only ones that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. fathered during his lifetime. Of the actor’s three marriages, it’s his marriage to Joan Crawford that gets talked about the most nowadays on account of the fact that she went on to become such a star. However, the actor’s marriage to Joan was also undeniably the least successful of his three marriages. If death hadn’t gotten in the way, either of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s second two marriages could’ve lasted a good deal longer.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Never Got His Father’s Blessing
Upon his death in May of 2000, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was buried alongside his father. This proved somewhat ironic, as Douglas Fairbanks Sr. had never truly approved of his son during his lifetime. Though Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s feelings were outright hostile towards the start of his son’s career in the entertainment industry, he eventually warmed up slightly to the idea of his son following in his footsteps. Despite this, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. never truly got the blessing from his father that he so desired. Instead, what he got was more a begrudging respect. Once Douglas Fairbanks Jr. managed to figure life out for himself without his father’s help, his father finally came around to provide the love he never gave.
Many claim that Douglas Fairbanks Sr. never gave his son a fair shake, and that theory has a lot of merit. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was a good friend of Charlie Chaplin’s. Charlie infamously referred to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as the “eternal boy” on account of the way that his father treated him. The idea that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. could never escape his father’s shadow was right in his name! It a wonder that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. didn’t make the decision to change his name before venturing into the entertainment industry, especially if he didn’t want to tread on his father’s ground.
Douglas Fairbanks Sr. may have never given his son his blessing, but he is credited with helping secure Douglas Fairbanks Jr. his role in the aforementioned The Prisoner of Zenda. Many believe that the reason hat Douglas Fairbanks Sr. did this is because it was similar to the kind of roles that he would’ve taken back in his career heyday. Still, the only role that truly showed Douglas Fairbanks Jr. matching the swashbuckling bravado of his father was in the aforementioned Gunga Din. Given that Gunga Din was released in 1939, it came at the tail end of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s main years in Hollywood. Over the course of the 1930s, the actor got the grace the screen alongside such notable leading ladies as Rita Hayworth, Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Bette Davis. If he had never made the decision to become so invested in World War II, he may have grown to eclipse his father in terms of stardom.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. may have never gotten his father’s blessing, but he eventually got his begrudging respect. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was married to Joan Crawford, and that his father called her a gold-digger? Comment down below?