The Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. collection is a large, comprehensive collection of papers documenting every aspect of the life of this actor, businessman, spokesman, author, and U.S. Navy veteran. It includes manuscripts, correspondence, professional material, financial material, legal material, printed material, photographs, scrapbooks, film and video, audio material, memorabilia, and artwork.
Book-length manuscripts in the Fairbanks archive include his multi-volume autobiography, The Salad Days (1988), A Hell of a War (1993), and a third volume (untitled and unpublished) covering the post-war years up the 1980s. Along with several variant drafts, there are proposals for the books, outlines for the projects, interview transcripts, and other items. The third volume mainly consists of a series of outlines for the book, along with research material and notes dating from 1949 to 1958. Also present in the collection is the manuscript for an unpublished novel, So Many Summers, written in the 1920s.
Shorter manuscripts by Fairbanks in include celebrity profiles written for Vanity Fair magazine in the 1920s, including profiles of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, and Greta Garbo, among others; articles written by Fairbanks and published in various of magazines and newspapers, dating from the 1940s to the 1970s; speeches and radio broadcasts, many given on behalf of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and in support of the U.S. military during World War II; a U.S. Navy book, Amphibious Assault: U.S. Naval History of the Invasion of Sicily, containing information pertaining to Fairbanks’ role in the event; and talks and letters regarding U.S. relations with England. The collection also holds speeches given by Fairbanks at various universities and organizations where he was either receiving or presenting any number of awards and honorary degrees; Fairbanks’ reports on his wartime experience, mainly duplicates of official reports submitted by Fairbanks following particular actions or events (such as convoy missions); several short skits and plays; hundreds of bits of doggerel and toasts written by Fairbanks; and obituaries and appreciations written and read by Fairbanks, among other materials.
The collection also contains an extensive number of screenplays from films in which Fairbanks starred; films and television programs he produced; stage plays in which he acted; and other screenplays or teleplays that were either never made or were submitted to him for consideration. Notable titles include Little Caesar (1930); The Corsican Brothers, (1941); The Exile (1947); and Mr. Drake’s Duck (1951). Screenplays present for films produced or considered by Fairbanks include Terry and the Pirates (1956) and Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958). Also present are teleplays for The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (1959); Soho (1959); Hollywood’s Diamond Jubilee (1978); The Love Boat (1979, 1980); and others. Stage play scripts include My Fair Lady; The Pleasure of His Company; Out on a Limb; The Lion and the Unicorn, by Clemence Dane; Nymph Errant; and The Sixth Floor; among others.
In addition to the above items, the collection includes teleplays for every episode of the television series Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Presents. Fairbanks produced, narrated, and often starred in the episodes, which ran from 1953 to 1957.
Correspondence in the collection is comprehensive, covering Fairbanks’s personal life, his decades-long career as an actor on stage and screen, his service in World War II, his efforts as an entrepreneur, and his involvement in diplomatic and government affairs. All together, the letters number in the thousands, and date from ca. 1917 to 2000. Some of the more significant letters were placed into scrapbooks, and many original letters are paired with Fairbanks’s initial letters or responses (in handwritten draft, typed carbon copy, or photocopy form).
Personal correspondence includes letters to and from family members, friends, and fans. The earliest letters (1917-1921) are from Fairbanks to his mother, Anna Beth Sully Fairbanks. Other letters to and from her date from the 1930s to the 1960s, with several from her dated from 1940 to 1946. Also present are letters from Fairbanks’s stepfather, Jack Whiting. There are several letters (many of them reproductions) from Fairbanks to his father, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., dating from the 1920s to the 1930s. In addition, there are letters from Mary Pickford (Fairbanks’ stepmother) and Charles “Buddy” Rogers (Pickford’s last husband), dating from the 1940s to the 1970s; also present are several letters from Fairbanks to various parties regarding Pickford and Fairbanks’ attempt to nominate her for various honors. Other family correspondence includes hundreds of letters, cards, and notes to and from Mary Lee Fairbanks (his second wife), including numerous handwritten letters from Fairbanks to Mary Lee during his World War II service. In total, the letters date from the 1940s to 1988. In addition, the collection includes numerous letters from Fairbanks’s three daughters, Melissa, Daphne and Victoria. There are childhood notes from the 1940s and early 1950s, as well as later correspondence from the 1960s and 1970s. We have copies of a number of Fairbanks’s letters to his daughters, as well as correspondence regarding their weddings, items pertaining to their families’ affairs, and letters and cards sent to Fairbanks from his grandchildren. Finally, the collection includes letters from Fairbanks’s cousins, including Flobelle Fairbanks, Leticia Smoot and her husband Owen Crump, and Genie Chester.
Political and military figures who have corresponded with Fairbanks include governors, presidents, ambassadors, prime ministers and many others. The letters date from the 1940s through the 1990s. Presidential correspondents include Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Vice Presidents George H. W. Bush and Hubert Humphrey. Other notable government/military correspondents include Dean Acheson, Hugh Bullock, Arleigh Burke, Mario Cuomo, Allen W. Dulles, Jacob Javits, Edward Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, John McCain (Sr.), Claiborne Pell, Dean Rusk, Margaret Thatcher, John Jay Whitney, among others.
Entertainment figures fill a great portion of the correspondence in the collection. While some letters are from the 1930’s, most are from the 1940’s and through the 1990’s. Some notable letters are found in the several volumes of leather bound scrapbooks that Fairbanks commissioned. In most cases, there are other loose letters from individuals in the scrapbooks. Also, Fairbanks made many duplicate copies of letters from notable friends and acquaintances and these can be found in the collection as well. Notable correspondence include Fred Astaire; Richard Attenborough; Pearl Bailey; Irving Berlin; Charles Chaplin; Noël Coward; Joan Crawford (Fairbanks’ first wife); Greer Garson; John Gielgud; Lillian Gish; Alec Guinness; Katharine Hepburn; Alfred Hitchcock; Garson Kanin; Buster Keaton; Burt Lancaster; Mervyn LeRoy; Alan Jay Lerner; David Niven; Merle Oberon; Laurence Olivier; William Saroyan; Paul Scofield; Irene Mayer Selznick; Neil Simon; Stephen Sondheim; John and Elaine Steinbeck; Gore Vidal; Lew Wasserman; Andrew Lloyd Webber; and Andrew Wyeth, among others.
The collection includes letters from members of many of Europe’s’ royal families. Most notable are letters to and from the British royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and the Queen Mother. In many cases we have carbon and/or handwritten drafts (sometimes photocopies) of Fairbanks’ letters. Of all these individuals, the most significant letters are those from Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma. Signed “Dickie”, these letters help illustrate the long friendship between Fairbanks and Mountbatten from the 1930s to Mountbatten’s assassination in 1979. There are more than several dozen letters from Mountbatten, as well as many copies of Fairbanks’ letters to him. Other royalty represented in the collection include King Juan Carlos of Spain; Claus and Beatrix, Prince and Princess of the Netherlands; Prince Ali Aga Khan; Prince Bertil of Sweden; King George VI of Britain; Alexander, Prince of Yugoslavia; The Maharajah of Jaipur; and Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco.
The collection contains several thousand Christmas and New Year cards sent to Fairbanks from roughly the 1940s to 1999. These cards came from hundreds of acquaintances and friends, and many of the names appear year after year. A good number of these cards bear printed signatures or none at all, though many do bear the sender’s authentic signature. Among these are cards from various members of the royal family of England, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, The Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret. There are other holiday cards from the Prince Rainier and the royal family of Monaco, as well as other members of various European royal families. Other notable individuals who sent Christmas cards include: Winthrop and Harriet Aldrich, Fred Astaire, Noël Coward, Dwight Eisenhower, Lynn Fontanne, Vivien Leigh, Alfred Lunt, Maharaja of Cooch Behar Jagaddipendra, Danny Kaye, the Kennedys, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright, Ronald Reagan, and Adlai Stevenson, among others.
The collection contains thousands of pieces of fan mail. Most is organized chronologically, though there are some sections which retain certain designations as specified by Vera Fairbanks (third wife of Fairbanks) These include several “superfans” who wrote often to Fairbanks, and in some cases were acquainted with him. These files are mostly from the 1980s and 1990s. Some groups of fan letters are arranged according to the state from which the letters were sent.
Professional correspondence is interfiled with various professional, financial, and legal documents.
Professional material in the collection includes thousands of pages of business files dealing with Fairbanks’ production companies, his political work, and various charities. A combination of correspondence, reports, printed items, tax records, and other financial documents, these extensive files deal mostly with Fairbanks’ efforts as a movie and television producer and entrepreneur in the late 1940s and 1950s. Almost all the files are in some way related to the Dougfair Corporation, the company established by Fairbanks’ and his business partner. Topics includes AFTRA; Alexander & Alexander; Douglas Fairbanks Ltd.; Cellini Films; H.A. MacDonald; Gene Markey (re: scripts); United Nations Associations; CARE organization; Westridge (general files regarding Fairbanks, Jr.’s Hollywood house); Clemence Dane (writer and friend); Elite Film A.G. Zurich; films produced by Fairbanks, Jr., including The Exile, The Fighting O’Flynn, Mr. Drake’s Duck, and Another Man’s Poison (starring Bette Davis and Gary Merrill); travels in Europe; United Artists; Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks, Jr. (general correspondence files, 1954-1959); Lyman A. Garber (escrow holder for Dougfair stock); Hyman Eliot; William Morris Agency; television information; Dougfair Company financial records (includes taxes, financial reports, letters); Terry and the Pirates (mainly Dougfair’s attempt to make a feature film adaptation of the Milton Caniff comic strip); International Theatre (television projects) and NBC; Dragon Films contracts; Bluebeard production material; Die Sunderin (The Sinner) contracts and correspondence; Police Beat materials; “Bulldog Drummond” materials; “Chase a Crooked Shadow” production; Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents, including teleplays, contract, correspondence files, and financial documents regarding the first, second, third and fourth seasons; writers’ contracts; The Funniest Man in the World, a documentary about Charlie Chaplin; Return of the Pink Panther (Fairbanks dropped out of the production); and an unrealized project titled William the Conqueror.
From the 1970s to the 1990s, most of the projects involving Fairbanks are either projects which he narrated, his two autobiographical volumes, television appearances, and public speaking engagements -- at tributes to him or others and at film festivals and other events commemorating his classic movies. Fairbanks also fielded many interview requests during this time, and there are files of letters regarding these, as well as transcripts for most of the interviews he sat for.
Fairbanks kept many records from his World War II service for the U.S. Navy, including telegrams, original and copied letters, notes, and other material. These items include files and dispatches kept by and sent to him from 1941 to 1945; operations reports; orders regarding assignments; records of citations received for his wartime efforts; and other items.
Financial material in the collection is extensive, pertaining to Fairbanks’ business concerns as well as his and Mary Lee Fairbanks’ financial affairs through the 1940s and 1950s. There are also records and documents relating to the Fairbanks Company.
Legal material in the collection includes contracts and legal correspondence pertaining to Fairbanks’ business from the 1970’s and 1990’s. This includes: contracts from producing television documentaries, including The Amazing Years of Cinema (1976); items regarding the estates of various relatives; material regarding arbitration with Raymond Rohauer; items regarding the autobiographies; material for a project on Christopher Columbus (1991-1992); items regarding Cole Porter’s 100th Birthday Celebration (1991); and material pertaining to the use of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.’s name in a motion picture (1987). In addition, the collection contains a redacted copy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s file on Fairbanks, which he obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Printed material in the collection consists of programs, posters, newspaper clippings, and magazine clippings, among other materials. Programs and playbills in the collection include items from numerous theatrical events, plays and films in which Fairbanks acted, performances Fairbanks or Vera Fairbanks attended from 1979 to 2012. Various performances and events he attended include award ceremonies, dinners, graduations, grand openings, and plays. Posters in the collection include posters (some originals, some reproductions) for the films Little Caesar (1930), The Amateur Gentleman (1934), Catherine the Great (1934), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Gunga Din (1939), Safari (1940), Sinbad the Sailor (1947), and The Exile (1947); the latter also includes lobby cards. Theatrical posters, all from the 1970s, include My Fair Lady, The Pleasure of His Company, and The Secretary Bird.
Newspaper and magazine clippings in the collection are extensive. They consist of reviews of and reporting on Fairbanks’ films and theatrical roles; the Fairbanks family legacy; interviews; general book film and theatre reviews; history; politics; and many other items. In addition to clippings, the collection contains many complete issues of various periodicals. The bulk of these materials pertain in some way to Fairbanks, his acting, and other public appearances, dating from the 1920s to obituaries on his death in January 2000.
Other printed material includes multiple copies, in variously updated versions, of Fairbanks’ personal biographical sketches; summaries of his show business career; and material related to his entries in Who’s Who.
Photographs in the collection are extensive. The collection includes numerous images documenting Fairbanks’ life, his family, and hundreds of his friends and acquaintances. Also present are many images regarding his work as an actor, entrepreneur, and Naval officer.
Personal photographs in the collection date from Fairbanks’ birth in 1909 to the time of his death in 2000. The images include him as a baby and as a young boy, as well as him as a young man with other notables, such as his Joan Crawford (his first wife) and Jack Dempsey. The photographs also depict Fairbanks and his family, particularly his wife Mary Lee Fairbanks and their three daughters. These images include Douglas and Mary Lee at their wedding in 1939, in various locations in Hollywood in the 1940s, and in various locations abroad. Also included are images taken at the Pickfair Lodge, the home of Fairbanks’ stepmother and a famous Hollywood socialite hot-spot.
Albums in the collection contain many portraits of famous individuals, with several prints autographed and inscribed to Fairbanks. Most of these photographs are high-quality prints taken by professional portrait photographers. Notable actors and entertainers include Brian Aherne; George Arliss; Pearl Bailey; John, Ethel, and Lionel Barrymore; Clara Bow; Charlie Chaplin; Ronald Colman; Noël Coward; Marlene Dietrich; Ella Fitzgerald; Lynne Fontanne; Greta Garbo; John Gielgud; Martha Graham; Rex Harrison; Katharine Hepburn; Hedda Hopper; Debora Kerr; Gertrude Lawrence; Alfred Lunt; Gene Markey; Raymond Massey; Adolphe Menjou; Cecil B. DeMille; David Niven; Laurence Olivier, Lili Palmer; Cole Porter; Basil Rathbone; Ralph Richardson; Dolores Del Rio; Buddy Rogers; Will Rogers; Mickey Rooney; George Bernard Shaw; Norma Shearer; Igor Stravinsky, Gloria Swanson; Herbert Bayard Swope; Elizabeth Taylor; Rudolph Valentino; Conrad Veidt; Raoul Walsh, H. G. Wells; Walter Winchell; and Andrew Wyeth; among others. There are also photographs taken on the set of Gunga Din; photographs from the Venice Film Festival; various parties for movie stars and others; British Parliament; the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England; Fairbanks’ investiture as a Knight of the British Empire; and other topics. Images of public figures and military personnel include Gen. Omar Bradley, Willi Brandt, Adm. J. B. Bulkeley, Winston Churchill, Calvin Coolidge, John Dalton, Allan Dulles, Dwight Eisenhower, Queen Elizabeth II, Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Gerald Ford, James Forrestal, King George VI, Fiorello La Guardia, Adm. William Halsey, Cordell Hull, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissenger, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, Pope John Paul II, Prince Philip, Pope Pius X, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Harry Truman, Earl Warren, Wendell Wilkie, and the Duke of Windsor, among others.
The collection contains dozens of head shots of Fairbanks, mainly dating from the 1940s and 1950s. Some of these publicity photographs are autographed by Fairbanks. We also have dozens of portraits of Fairbanks taken during his time in the Navy. There are studio poses of Fairbanks in his uniform, as well as many candid photos of Fairbanks on board some of the vessels upon which he served.
There are also hundreds of still photographs from the films and plays Fairbanks starred in. Many of these include Fairbanks with various co-stars. Titles include Stella Dallas (1925); Our Modern Maidens (1929); Little Caesar (1930); The Prisoner of Zenda (1937); Gunga Din (1938); Safari (1940); Green Hell; The Exile; The Fighting O’Flynn; That Lady in Ermine (1949); and Mr. Drake’s Duck; and Ghost Story (1981); among others. There are also photographs from theatrical productions in the 1960s and 1970s, namely The Pleasure of His Company, My Fair Lady, and Present Laughter.
The collection contains several photographs of Fairbanks and others, taken during wartime operations that he either witnessed or was directly involved in. These include photographs of various U.S. and British naval ships and aircraft; operations in Sicily, France, the North Atlantic; and many photographs of Fairbanks and various wartime companions; among other materials. These photographs date from 1941 to 1945.
Finally, there are hundreds of glass stereo slides in the collection, as well as a viewer. Most of these show Fairbanks and his family at home in London and on vacation around the United States and Europe.
Scrapbooks in the collection document Fairbanks theatre career, touring with productions of The Secretary Bird (1973); Present Laughter (1975); My Fair Lady (1976); and The Pleasure of His Company (1976-1977).
Audio material include speeches and performances by Fairbanks, including: Fairbanks reciting poetry by Rudyard Kipling; readings from The Prisoner of Zenda; a reading of Kidnapped, with Roddy McDowall; performances for the Lux Radio Theatre (1936); Song of Songs, with Marlene Dietrich (1937); Impressions of Hollywood, with Adolphe Menjou (1938); The Miracle, with Miriam Hopkins (1938); and others.
Also present are about a dozen home recordings of Fairbanks and various family events. In addition, the collection includes items from Fairbanks’ personal record collection. Most of these are recordings of radio broadcasts; songs; dramatic readings of poems, books and plays; public addresses; and others, dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. The recordings include “Douglas Fairbanks” (1934); King George V’s “Message to the Empire” (1935); “The Living Bible,” read by Laurence Olivier and presented by Fairbanks; several stories read by A. Short; radio bloopers; and a series of Noël Coward play scenes and songs.
Film and video in the collection primarily consists of VHS copies of some of Fairbanks’ film and television appearances. Also included are DVDs containing home movies; recordings featuring Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney; and English coronations.
Memorabilia in the collection is extensive. These items include souvenirs that Fairbanks collected throughout his life, in particular a number of plaques, medallions and other awards presented to Fairbanks. World War II memorabilia includes Fairbanks’ uniforms, hats, helmets, military decorations, and various miscellany including pipes, paperweights, an empty artillery shell, maps, and the identification book of a Nazi sailor.
Artwork in the collection consists of several paintings and sculptures by Fairbanks, as well as molds from some of his sculptures. In addition, there are paintings that Fairbanks once owned and displayed in his home.