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Douglas Fairbanks Hardcover – December 8, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1ST edition (December 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520256670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520256675
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 7.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“One of Hollywood's earliest megastars gets lavish treatment in Jeffrey Vance's Douglas Fairbanks. . . . A real treat for cinephiles.”
(Martin Levin Toronto Globe & Mail 2009-01-09)

“Lavishly illustrated, Vance's painstakingly researched, comprehensive and thoughtful work is a book for buffs to treasure . . . a riveting read.”
(Bill Thompson Charleston Post & Courier 2009-03-22)

“A beautiful book, extensively researched, a model of film scholarship, one of the best cinema studies of this or any year.”
(John Gallagher Nat'l Board Of Review Of Motion Pictures 2008-12-01)

"A gorgeously illustrated, solidly researched new biography."
(David Bordwell David Bordwell 2008-11-26)

“The research is impeccable, the writing engaging and illuminating, and the deluxe illustrations exquisite.”
(T. Lindvall Choice 2009-03-01)

“An ambitious book . . . it tells you a lot about its hero, and it's generously illustrated.”
(Robert Gottlieb New York Review Of Books 2009-02-26)

“A serious biography of one of the pioneers of cinema . . . magnificent photos.”
(Heather Shaw Foreword 2008-09-01)

“A generous new biography.”
(Metro Newspapers 2008-12-17)

“Jeffrey Vance's biography ‘Douglas Fairbanks’ retells the story of the man who became one of Hollywood's first superstars.”
(Carolyn Kellogg Los Angeles Times Book Review 2009-02-05)

“A handsomely produced, long-gestated biography . . . stunningly produced photographs.”
(Jay Weissberg Sight & Sound Magazine 2009-03-01)

“Looks at the mad life and times of one of cinema’s first superstars . . . brings a lot of freshness to the Fairbanks biography.”
(Paul Dale The List 2009-02-19)

“Jeffrey Vance’s glorified, and glorifying, picture book retrieves the memory and the glamour of one of the first superstars.”
(Frederic Raphael Times Literary Supplement (TLS) 2009-04-22)

“Perfect accompaniment for home entertainment viewing of the silent film star arrives in the form of film historian Jeffrey Vance's gorgeously laid out biography Douglas Fairbanks.”
(Ben Terrall San Francisco Bay Guardian 2009-09-02)

“The book is an absolute must for any cinema buff.”
(Broadway Stars 2008-12-30)

“In the handsomely designed biography Douglas Fairbanks, Jeffrey Vance, with Tony Maietta, relates a charmed career with a doleful undertow . . . a well-researched study.”
(Bill Stamets Chicago Sun-Times 2009-01-04)

“A handsome work, with gorgeously reproduced photographs. . . . Highly recommended for film collections.”
(Margaret Heilbrun Library Journal 2009-01-15)

From the Inside Flap

"The heedless ambition of youth. The triumphs of maturity, redefining our ideas of fame, fortune and international celebrity. The sad aimlessness of the aging male, stripped of his powers over his formerly adoring audience. It is the archetypal Hollywood story, maybe the archetypal American story. And Jeffrey Vance tells it with verve and compassion and admirable compression in his handsomely illustrated biography of Douglas Fairbanks. It is a book that restores his subject to his rightful place as the American movies' founding Big Brother—shrewd, playful, flawed and endlessly fascinating."—Richard Schickel

"Over the years I have had an interest in Douglas Fairbanks' life and films before reading Jeffrey Vance's book. I was delighted to find that the research was admirable, the detail abundant, and the style devoid of pretense and heavy-handed scholarship. The book reads gracefully with a wonderful sense of 'and then what happened?' And a great deal does happen to the inimitable Doug along the way. His cinema world of high adventure, storybook romance, cloak and sword derring-do, and dazzling acrobatics against spectacular settings are all here in the text and in the abundance of extraordinary photos—many quite rare. A first-rate book."—Rudy Behlmer, film historian and author

"Douglas Fairbanks was one of the most important characters in film history, and this enthusiastic and well-researched book will tell you why."—Kevin Brownlow, filmmaker and film historian

More About the Author

Jeffrey Vance is an American film historian, producer, archivist, and lecturer, as well as the author of the acclaimed volumes "Douglas Fairbanks" (UC Press/Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 2008), "Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema" (Harry N. Abrams, 2003), "Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian" (Harry N. Abrams, 2002), and "Buster Keaton Remembered" (Harry N. Abrams, 2001).

He began his career as an archivist for M-G-M/United Artists and served the same function for the Chaplin family's Roy Export S.A.S., The Harold Lloyd Trust, and the Mary Pickford Foundation. As a producer, he packaged the "Harold Lloyd Classic Comedies" for Turner Classic Movies, later released to DVD by New Line Home Entertainment. As a filmmaker, he produced and directed the short subject "Rediscovering John Gilbert" (2010) which aired on Turner Classic Movies as well as released to home video. He has served as a consultant to virtually every motion picture studio and has appeared in numerous documentaries.

He writes for various publications, contributes audio commentary tracks for DVD/Blu-ray, and speaks at venues throughout the United States and Europe including the TCM Classic Film Festival, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, British Film Institute, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, "Los Angeles Times" Festival of Books, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Customer Reviews

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I enjoyed every minute of reading this book.
Ron Palumbo
In depth story of the life of Fairbanks ' and wonderful details of the making of his movies.
Kindle Reader
Jeffrey Vance's new completist biography of film pioneer Douglas Fairbanks is worth a look.
Brad Baker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Underwood on November 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Much has already been written about early motion picture pioneers like D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, but their invaluable partner, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr has been overlooked and neglected - until now. With this very attractive and professional book, author Jeffrey Vance has given due credit to one of early cinema's most brilliant stars and dynamic personalities who not only had true star power but was a driving force behind the scenes as well. Often remembered these days only for his successful 1920s costume adventure dramas such as "The Mark of Zorro", "Robin Hood" and "The Three Musketeers" to name a few, Douglas Fairbanks had a varied, interesting and successful career well before this period, and also contributed greatly to the development of Hollywood. He was one of the founders of United Artists, he and wife Mary Pickford were the first `golden couple' of Hollywood who established Beverley Hills as the suburb of movie stars; he wrote, directed and produced most of his films, was active in writing books and magazine articles, and his self-styled roles in films like Zorro established the action-adventure swashbuckler genre as well as even inspiring other action heroes like Batman. If you didn't know any of this, then you must get this book! And even for the well-versed Fairbanks fan, this book will be a treat with its thoroughly researched material, filmography and an overall style that befits a great personality of early cinema. There are excellent photos on almost every page, some rarely seen before, and Vance's style is professional, easy and enjoyable to read. Most of the book's chapters deal with definite periods in Fairbanks's life and career, with whole chapters devoted to the grand 1920s productions which deserve detailed coverage.Read more ›
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Brad Baker VINE VOICE on November 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jeffrey Vance's new completist biography of film pioneer Douglas Fairbanks is worth a look. A good long look. Well-written and concise, Vance details the amazing life, and all of the movies, of one of the 20th Century's most incredible icons; the first Motion Picture Superstar. Douglas Fairbanks was born in Denver in 1883. He was raised by his southern mother, who had separated from his father, an attorney, when he was only five. His father, an alcoholic, would desert the family. Fairbanks suffered from depression as a child. Insecurity haunted all three of his later marriages, and affected the up-bringing of his son, Douglas Jr.. But young Doug found peace, and surely promise, in the fantasy world of theater, and later...the movies...Douglas Fairbanks began amateur theater at age 12 in Colorado. He made his Broadway debut in 1902. The hit play, "The Lamb", led to a Hollywood contract. Success would follow. He appeared in "The Americano", for D.W. Griffith, in 1916. He was paid $10,000 a week to star in "Flirting With Fate(1916)". Fairbanks would marry an industrialist's daughter. With Marry Pickford, D.W. Griffith, and Charlie Chaplin, he helped form United Artists in 1919. During a Libert Bond tour he fell in love with Mary Pickford. Eventually married, Doug and Mary became the first residents of Beverly Hills, where they built the Pickfair Mansion. Pickfair was erected on top of Summit Drive in Benedict Canyon. It was torn down in 1979 by Pia Zadora. Using their combined assets, Fairbanks and Pickford bought the old Jesse Hampton studio on Formosa Ave. and Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood in 1922. There they would produce some of their finest films. This studio today is called "The Lot". Here Fairbanks shot many silent epics, including "Robin Hood(1922)", and "The Thief of Bagdad(1924)".Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Scott T. Rivers VINE VOICE on November 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Film historian Jeffrey Vance follows his excellent Keaton-Lloyd-Chaplin trilogy with this fascinating pictorial biography on the inimitable Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939). Best known for his acrobatic exuberance in light comedies and swashbuckling adventures, the producer-writer-star was a groundbreaking artist who spared no expense in adapting his vivid imagination to the cinematic canvas. The author places Doug's filmmaking legacy in its proper perspective with a detailed analysis of his finest achievements: "The Thief of Bagdad" (1924), "The Black Pirate" (1926), "The Iron Mask" (1929) and the criminally underrated "The Gaucho" (1927). Separating art from world fame, Vance also examines the integral role Fairbanks played in the development of motion-picture technology, independent production and film appreciation. Augmented by insightful interviews and a wealth of rare photographs, "Douglas Fairbanks" is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of cinema.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Agatha Christie TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book has given me a new found appreciation for the cinematic world of Douglas Fairbanks. Quite frankly, I knew a lot more about Mary Pickford(DF's 2nd wife) until I read this book. I had always assumed that Fairbanks main claim to movie immortality were the swashbuckler roles that he was known for and which often pop up on TCM as part of Silent Sunday Night. While my assumption is probably correct, this book proved to be quite a revelation on many levels. Before there was ever a screen actor Fairbanks, there was a Broadway actor Fairbanks. Pre-dating the swashbuckler films imbedded with athleticism, there were films with DF as an affable leading man in dramatic and comic roles.

This book tells DF's story from the early days in CO, discusses the dynamics of his relationships with Pickford, DF Jr., and his contemporaries such as Chaplin, DW Griffith and Victor Fleming. Profiles of all his movies are included as well as detailed info re: the founding of Famous Artists. It also discusses his decline in the fickle world of cinema and details his later years.

Would definitely recommend this book. I found it not only informative but compelling as well. It was a difficult book to put down as it was well-researched and`written. I'd have to say that this is probably the ultimate Fairbanks primer.
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