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Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr., KBE, DSC (December 9, 1909 – May 7, 2000), was an American actor and a decorated naval officer of World War II.
His first notable relationship was with the actress Joan Crawford, whom he began to date seriously during the filming of Our Modern Maidens. Fairbanks and Crawford married on June 3, 1929 at St. Malachy in New York City. Fairbanks was only 19; Crawford was four years older.
They travelled to Britain on a delayed honeymoon, where he was entertained by Noël Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Beatrice Lillie, and Prince George, Duke of Kent. He became active in both society and politics, but Crawford was far more interested in her career and had an affair with Clark Gable. In his first autobiography he would later admit that he was also unfaithful during that period and that he unsuccessfully pursued Katharine Hepburn during the filming of Morning Glory. The couple divorced in 1933, but the divorce would not become final for another year.
Despite their divorce, Fairbanks was quick to defend Crawford when her adopted daughter Christina Crawford published Mommie Dearest, a scathing biography of Crawford's personal life. He firmly stated, "The Joan Crawford that I've heard about in Mommie Dearest is not the Joan Crawford I knew back then." In his autobiography he would state that he never saw a hint of any significant anger outbursts from Crawford during their marriage and that she was more likely to sulk or argue than become angry.
On April 22, 1939, Fairbanks married Mary Lee Hartford (née Mary Lee Epling), a former wife of Huntington Hartford, the A&P supermarket heir. He remained devoted to her until her death in 1988. They had three daughters: Daphne, Victoria and Melissa, as well as eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
The College of Arms in London granted Fairbanks a coat of arms symbolizing the U.S. and Britain united across the blue Atlantic Ocean by a silken knot of friendship.
In 1982, Fairbanks was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit for his contribution to the relief of the needy in occupied Germany.
It has been claimed that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was one of the naked men in the incriminating photos used as evidence in the divorce trial of Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll in 1963.
He was also named in connection with the Profumo Scandal.
Fairbanks was a friend of Laurence Olivier and was among the contributors to a documentary by The South Bank Show called Laurence Olivier: A Life. He was also a close friend of Sir Rex Harrison and was a presenter at Harrison's New York City memorial service.
He wrote his autobiography, Salad Days, in 1988. In addition, Fairbanks wrote a chronicle of his experiences during the Second World War, A Hell of a War published in 1993. Beyond his two volumes of autobiography, Fairbanks collaborated with Richard Schickel on the illustrated survey of Fairbanks Sr. and Jr. called The Fairbanks Album (1975) and Jeffrey Vance with a critical study/biography of Fairbanks Sr. ultimately published as Douglas Fairbanks (2008).
On May 30, 1991, Fairbanks married Vera Lee Shelton, a merchandiser for QVC Network Inc.
On the morning of May 7, 2000, Fairbanks died at the age of 90 of a heart attack and was interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California, in the same tomb as his father.
Fairbanks has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures at 6318 Hollywood Boulevard, one for television at 6665 Hollywood Boulevard and one for radio at 6710 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1969 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Best Dressed List.
The moving image collection of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is held at the Academy Film Archive and includes over 90 reels of home movies.
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