LOVE: “Oh I am simply wild about you. I feel positively sure that no man could love a woman more than I love you,” Fairbanks wrote, Stars of the Golden Age

LOVE: “Oh I am simply wild about you. I feel positively sure that no man could love a woman more than I love you,” Fairbanks wrote, Stars of the Golden Age

Wikipedia: Gladys Louise Smith, known professionally as Mary Pickford was born on April 8, 1892, in Toronto. In 1909, she appeared in 40 movies for D.W. Griffith’s American Biograph company. She also worked as a producer and co-founded United Artists, with Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., who would become her second husband.

  From sweetheart to Mogul to Icon SOURCE: Mary Pickford, the Canadian-American actress, was one of the 36 founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,and a key figure in shaping what Hollywood has become today. This silent movie star was married to famous actor-director, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and together the couple formed the independent film production company United Artists (along with D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin), and ruled the 1920s film scene. It didn’t take long for their love affair to blossom into a fully formed romantic partnership that yielded even greater rewards than they had received independently. Indeed, it is as if Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks—the first power couple of the golden age of cinema—wrote the script that so many Hollywood couples follow to this day.

Mary Pickford was named Gladys Louise Smith when she was born in Toronto in 1892. Before she was 8, she—and her trademark golden ringlets—appeared on stage as Baby Gladys in a vaudeville act. With her mother and siblings, she toured the country performing in plays, and by age 15 had her first role on Broadway and her new name—Mary Pickford.

The year 1909 proved pivotal for the young actress—she landed her first role in the new medium of silent films and she met an Irish actor named Owen Moore, whom she would marry not two years later. Her career took off, even as her marriage foundered. A shrewd negotiator, Pickford parlayed her $500 a week salary in 1912 to a gasp-inducing $10,000 a week in 1916—plus a $300,000 bonus and her own production company. Her husband, however, was not so lucky: an ill-tempered and mercurial alcoholic, Moore was jealous of her success, and their relationship suffered.

Silent film stars husband and wife, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Mary Pickford…In this 1925 photograph, the smiling pair is shot sitting in the sand (wearing outfits that are not quite beach-appropriate). Though we might have picked different attire for a day in the sun, their ensembles are perfect for a romantic Valentine’s Day. You could easily modernize Pickford‘s matching suit with separates (all the while keeping in mind her cute hat and belted waist). Fairbanks’ tweed blazer and khaki pants would work on just about any man, as long as the jacket was properly tailored. Would you try this vintage look? SOURCE: Douglas Fairbanks was called Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman when he was born in Denver in 1883. Like Mary Pickford, he began acting early, appearing in a theater troupe in his teens. The name Fairbanks came from his mother’s first husband (not his father, who abandoned the family when Douglas was 5). He made his Broadway debut in 1902 in Her Lord and Master. He gained fame as a Broadway actor, and the attentions of a young Rhode Island heiress, Anna Beth Sully, whom he married in 1907 and with whom he’d have a son, Douglas Jr., who would also go on to film stardom. The family moved to Los Angeles, where Fairbanks began working in film under the direction of the famous D.W. Griffith.


  Hunky, gregarious and with a dazzling smile, Douglas Fairbanks was apparently born to be a movie star. Never lacking in ambition and enthusiasm, he also became one of Hollywood’s founding fathers. In 1919, together with his best friend Charlie Chaplin, his bride-to-be Mary Pickford, and director DW Griffith, he started the United Artists studio, which is still, despite some recent uncertainties, a Hollywood player. SOURCE: “I am simply wild about you”: Secrecy electrified the affair of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, stars of the Golden Age

Fairbanks and Pickford first met in November 1915 at a party in Tarrytown, New York, at the estate of fellow actress Elsie Janis that both attended with their respective spouses. With much in common, the two struck up a friendship that turned romantic within the year, though they kept their relationship secret. To elude public scrutiny, they disguised themselves in floppy hats and oversized sunglasses for clandestine meetings. At one point, Pickford’s mother hired a “fixer” to keep the scandal out of the newspapers. Secrecy electrified their affair, and the two wrote passionate letters to each other, which Pickford saved until her death, as recounted in the biography The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks, by Tracey Goessel.

“I had been living in half shadows, and now a brilliant light was suddenly cast upon me,” Pickford wrote.

“Oh I am simply wild about you. I feel positively sure that no man could love a woman more than I love you,” Fairbanks wrote, according to Goessel. “You have completely taken possession of me, I cannot live without you.”

Fawn Velveteen — lauramcphee: Mary Pickford and Douglas...  When Hollywood’s Hero met America’s Sweetheart in 1915, both were married to other people. Movie-going was a new national obsession, celebrity worship a nascent sport. The couple risked public scandal and reprobation. But in fact their glamorous fame outweighed sober morality. SOURCE: IMAGE CREDIT: In April 1918, Pickford and Fairbanks toured the country promoting Liberty Bonds, along with Fairbanks’s best friend and the only star possibly more famous than him, the silent film star Charlie Chaplin. They sold $18 million in bonds, revealing the power of celebrity, not to mention the undeniable allure of the by-now obvious power couple. Fairbanks’s wife found out, and divorced him. It took another year for Pickford to secure a divorce from Moore, who used the opportunity to extort money out of his much-more-famous wife. They were issued a same-day divorce in Nevada, and three weeks later Pickford and Fairbanks wed.

The wattage of the Pickford-Fairbanks union extended beyond their marriage. In 1919, they teamed up with their pals Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith to form United Artists Corporation. They moved into a lavish 18-acre estate in Beverly Hills, complete with swimming pool, tennis courts, and stables, which they called Pickfair—possibly coining the first celebrity-name mashup. Wherever they traveled, they were swarmed by fans. Fairbanks founded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and hosted the first Academy Awards ceremony, handing out 14 Oscars. They starred separately in huge hits, including for Fairbanks The Mark of Zorro and for Pickford Coquette, which won her a Best Actress Academy AwardAnd they starred in their only film together, The Taming of the Shrew.

Behind the scenes, however, their relationship eroded. Both were jealous; both likely strayed. Gossip queen Louella Parsons wrote a front-page story about the impending separation of Pickford and Fairbanks, and by December 1933, Pickford had filed for divorce.

Both remarried, but their careers were already in decline, with the advent of “talkies.” Fairbanks married the English socialite Lady Sylvia Ashley, with whom he’d had an affair (and who had also been wed at the time). Pickford married Buddy Rogers, with whom she’d starred in a film and possibly also had an affair. Fairbanks died of a heart attack shortly thereafter. Pickford lived until 1979, although by then she had become an alcohol-fueled recluse. She lived out her final days at Pickfair, a box of letters by her side. EXCLUSIVE: Passionate love affairs, bitter rivalries and a very expensive divorce

  • Douglas Fairbanks Snr’s love letters are published in a new book detailing his years as the first King of Hollywood
  • He started a passionate affair with Mary Pickford when they were both married – and his wife was furious
  • It was Hollywood’s first great love affair and electrified the massive new cinema audience but behind the scenes it was 
  • Their marriage was wracked by betrayal on either side – then ended with a divorce which handed her an estate with 24-room mansion
  • Fairbanks created The Academy, which awards Oscars, United Artists and the whole area of Beverly Hills
  • He could not adapt to the talkie era – like the character he inspired in The Artist – but his son, Douglas Jnr became a pin-up too 

He was the first of the great Hollywood stars, playing Robin Hood and Zorro for the first time in the studios’ silent days.

Douglas Fairbanks Snr was idolized by the millions who flocked to America’s cinemas as movie-going became the national obsession.

But behind the scenes, the silent star had plenty to say – much of it to seduce the series of women he loved in a tempestuous life which would make that of current stars seem tame.

Now a new book reveals his love letters to his wife Mary Pickford, a love affair which became the first to enthrall movie fans as much – if not more than – the plots of the films they flocked to see.

Fairbanks died in 1939 aged just 56 but his legacy has shaped Hollywood that we know today.

  • He started a passionate affair with Mary Pickford when they were both married – and his wife was furious

Fairbanks and Pickford met for secret liaisons but often communicated by letter talking about what Gossel calls their ‘ups and downs, guilt and raptures’.

Fairbanks had taken the scissors to a family portrait and cut out Beth and his son, leaving just himself and his mother.

He enclosed the photograph in a letter to Pickford called: ‘Don’t be blue’.

He wrote: ‘Don’t be blue. I love you as I never loved you, dear. I will do anything you want…

Remember mother left you to me. I worship you’.

In another letter he told her: ‘Oh I am simply wild about you. I feel positively sure that no man could love a woman more than I love you’.

For her part Pickford told the press she was back with her husband, but it was all just for appearances as she was sleeping with actor and director James Kirkwood as well as Fairbanks.

There was also at least one other man in her life who penned her a pining letter he signed off as ‘your lonely man’ but did not leave his name.

Pickford’s mother Charlotte hired fixer called Edward Hemmer to stop their affair getting out and at one point Hemmer chased Fairbanks out of Pickford’s house with a gun.

He also went to Denver to pay off a newspaper not to write about them.

Such was their fear of getting caught that Pickford and Fairbanks resorted to wearing costumes like floppy hats and beards when they met up for trysts, Goessel writes.

  • Their marriage was wracked by betrayal on either side – then ended with a divorce which handed her an estate with 24-room mansion

But in the end Owen however figured out what was going on and is said to have told Pickford: ‘I’m going to kill that climbing monkey’. Fairbanks did not handle him well as his jealousy was ‘infamous’, Goessel writes.

In one of his letters to Pickford he attempted to make amends for one of his fits of envy.

He wrote: ‘I do hope that soon I will be normal and that I will cause you no more disturbing moments – these petty jealousies etc…the way I behaved this morning I was rather ashamed when I had left you’.

Another read: ‘You must never leave me again, it is not right – the rest of the world means nothing to me…you have completely taken possession of me, I cannot live without you’.

In a letter in December 1919 he wrote to her: ‘I am so miserably jealous!’

He wrote: ‘Oh darling what wonderful happiness you have brought into my life. There has been a corresponding misery with it but that is necessary and I am sure when we work it out it will be a perfect union.

 I do hope that soon I will be normal and that I will cause you no more disturbing moments – these petty jealousies etc…the way I behaved this morning I was rather ashamed when I had left you.
Fairbanks in a letter to Pickford before they married

‘My little wife – that seems so good to say – my own – just think to possess you – my angel. Why I am cold all over writing it.’

That month however Fairbanks would have to wait no longer.

His wife Beth finally realized what was happening and told one reporter that she could not ‘defend any woman with whom my husband’s name has been linked…the gossip has foundation in fact’.

The divorce followed soon after and he gave her $500,000 and full custody of their son.

Pickford paid off Owen to the tune of $100,000 and they got married in Nevada, which had long been the destination of choice for stars wanting a ‘quickie’ divorce.

In Hollywood terms, the marriage lasted a lifetime, or 15 years at least and journalist Alistair Cooke said they were ‘living proof of America’s chronic belief in happy endings’.

But the warning signs were there and on a trip to Germany Pickford forgot the promise she had made to her husband that he would not go ‘twosing’ her with anyone but him at dinner, the theatre or at a dance. She was his, in other words.

Goessel writes that during a Fourth of July party with some German troops she danced with their commanding officer and Fairbanks ‘turned on his heel and stalked off into the night’.

Goessel writes: ‘For the next decade she would dance with no-one but Douglas. She adopted the party line with the press, saying: “Douglas doesn’t like dancing, and I find it rather silly myself”.’

By 1927 something had ‘changed’ between the couple and the romance was gone.

She writes that the ‘intimacy, the authentic smiles, the unconscious warmth’ was gone and that a ‘trust had been broken’.

Goessel writes that Fairbanks’ smile ‘never again seemed genuine’ and he was ‘wary, sad diminished’

He had cheated on her with Lupe Velez, the stunning Mexican actress, while Pickford had pushed things to the limit with Rogers, who she would later go on to marry.

Goessel writes that Pickford took it out by filming ‘tender, prolonged rehearsals of love scenes’ with Rogers in the film they were shooting – which Fairbanks would have seen.

Goessel writes: ‘What better way to prevent a husband from straying. in the mind of one schooled in happy ending film plots, than a warning shot across the bow?

‘There was, of course, a fatal flaw to this strategy; Fairbanks was pathologically jealous…to his furious mind all bets were off. From that point forward, if the cat was away., the mouse was definitely going to stray’.

The final straw for her was Fairbank’s affair with Sylvia Ashley, an English model and socialite, who was, inevitably, married at the time.

But for the ‘pathologically jealous’ Fairbanks the final straw was when he saw her fooling around with actor Buddy Rogers on set in a crude attempt to make him want her more.

It backfired as Fairbanks’ envy was a ‘significant character flaw’, Goessel writes.

After that ‘all bets were off’ and the original star of films like Robin Hood and Zorro began to stray even more than he already had.

Fairbanks and Pickford separated in 1933 and divorced three years later; she kept their lavish 18-acre, 25-room estate complete with stables, tennis courts and garages dubbed ‘Pickfair’.

Months later Fairbanks and Ashley married in Paris. Pickford would stay with Rogers until her death in 1979.

Fairbanks tried but was unable to adapt to the ‘talkie’ era of film and retired in 1934. He died five years later; his famous last words being: ‘I’ve never felt better’.

Hiis son, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, came to almost rival his father in fame – but years later his story would once again be the inspiration for Hollywood after being used as the inspiration for ‘The Artist’, the Oscar winning 2011 film about the birth of modern cinema.

Publicity: Every move of the new stars, Douglas Fairbanks Snr, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin were followed by their fans – and they played along, posing as they started an airplane trip together SOURCE:

Key role: While his audiences loved the glamour of his movies and the intrigue of his private life, Fairbanks (right) also laid the foundations of Hollwyood, creating United Artists alongside Chaplin (who is seen signing its papers) and Mary Pickford SOURCE:

Classic role: Fairbanks as Robin Hood in 1923. He made the first versions of some of the names which came to define Hollywood swashbuckling blockblusters Source:

Astute businessman: Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks at the formation of United Artists in 1919. It gave actors news power in Hollywood and led to the studio system SOURCE:


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