The Info List - Douglas Fairbanks

Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
(born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman; May 23, 1883 – December 12, 1939) was an American actor, screenwriter, director, and producer.[1] He was best known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films including The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and The Mark of Zorro but spent the early part of his career making comedies. Fairbanks was a founding member of United Artists. Fairbanks was also a founding member of The Motion Picture Academy and hosted the first Oscars Ceremony in 1929. With his marriage to Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford
in 1920, the couple became Hollywood royalty and Fairbanks was referred to as "The King of Hollywood",[2] a nickname later passed on to actor Clark Gable. Though widely considered as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood during the 1910s and 1920s, Fairbanks' career rapidly declined with the advent of the "talkies". His final film was The Private Life of Don Juan
Don Juan


1 Early life 2 Career

2.1 Early career 2.2 Hollywood 2.3 Career decline and retirement

3 Death 4 Legacy 5 Filmography 6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Early life[edit] Fairbanks was born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman (spelled "Ulman" by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
in his memoirs) in Denver, Colorado, the son of Hezekiah Charles Ullman (September 15, 1833- February 23, 1915) and Ella Adelaide (née Marsh; 1847-1915). He had two half-brothers, John Fairbanks, Jr. (born 1873) and Norris Wilcox (February 20, 1876 - October 21, 1946),[3] and a full brother, Robert Payne Ullman (March 13, 1882 – February 22, 1948). His father was born in Berrysburg, Pennsylvania, but raised in Williamsport. He was the fourth child in a Jewish
family consisting of six sons and four daughters. Charles's parents, Lazarus Ullman and Lydia Abrahams, had immigrated to the U.S. in 1830 from Baden, Germany. When he was 17, Charles started a small publishing business in Philadelphia. Two years later, he left for New York to study law. Charles met Ella Adelaide Marsh after she married his friend and client John Fairbanks, a wealthy New Orleans sugar mill and plantation owner. The couple had a son, John, and shortly thereafter John Senior died of tuberculosis. Ella, born into a wealthy southern Roman Catholic family, was overprotected and knew little of her husband's business. Consequently, she was swindled out of her fortune by her husband's partners. Even the efforts of Charles Ullman, acting on her behalf, failed to regain any of the family fortune for her.[citation needed] Distraught and lonely, she met and married a courtly Georgian, Edward Wilcox, who turned out to be an alcoholic. After they had a son, Norris, she divorced Wilcox with Charles acting as her own lawyer in the suit. The pretty southern belle soon became romantically involved with Charles and agreed to move to Denver with him to pursue mining investments. They arrived in Denver in 1881 with her son, John. (Norris was left in Georgia with relatives and was never sent for by his mother.) They were married and in 1882 had a child, Robert and then a second son, Douglas, a year later. Charles purchased several mining interests in the Rocky Mountains, and he re-established his law practice. Charles Ullman, after hearing of his wife's philandering, abandoned the family when Douglas was five years old. Douglas and his older brother Robert were brought up by their mother, who gave them the family name Fairbanks, after her first husband.[citation needed] Career[edit]

Douglas Fairbanks, c. late 1910s

Early career[edit] Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
began acting at an early age, in amateur theatre on the Denver stage, performing in summer stock at the Elitch Gardens Theatre, and other productions sponsored by Margaret Fealy, who ran an acting school for young people in Denver.[4] He attended Denver East High School, and was expelled for cutting the wires on the school piano.[4] He left school in the spring of 1899, at the age of 15.[4] He variously claimed to have attended Colorado School of Mines
Colorado School of Mines
and Harvard University, but neither claim is true. He went with the acting troupe of Frederick Warde, beginning a cross country tour in September 1899. He toured with Warde for two seasons, functioning in dual roles, both as actor and as the assistant stage manager in his second year with the group.[4] After two years he moved to New York, where he found his first Broadway role in Her Lord and Master, which premiered in February 1902. He worked in a hardware store and as a clerk in a Wall Street office between acting jobs.[5] His Broadway appearances included the popular A Gentleman from Mississippi
A Gentleman from Mississippi
in 1908-09. On July 11, 1907, Fairbanks married Anna Beth Sully, the daughter of wealthy industrialist Daniel J. Sully, in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. They had one son, Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
Jr., also a noted actor. In 1915, the family moved to Los Angeles.[citation needed] Hollywood[edit]

D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
(seated) and Douglas Fairbanks at the signing of the contract establishing United Artists motion picture studio in 1919. Lawyers Albert Banzhaf (left) and Dennis F. O'Brien (right) stand in the background.

After moving to Los Angeles, Fairbanks signed a contract with Triangle Pictures in 1915 and began working under the supervision of D.W. Griffith. His first film was titled The Lamb, in which he debuted the athletic abilities that would gain him wide attention among theatre audiences.[6] His athleticism was not appreciated by Griffith, however, and he was brought to the attention of Anita Loos
Anita Loos
and John Emerson, who wrote and directed many of his early romantic comedies. In 1916, Fairbanks established his own company, the Douglas Fairbanks Film Corporation,[7] and would soon get a job at Paramount.[7]

Fairbanks speaking in front of a crowd at a 1918 war bond drive in New York City.

Fairbanks met actress Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford
at a party in 1916, and the couple soon began an affair. In 1917, they joined Fairbanks' friend Charlie Chaplin[6] selling war bonds by train across the United States. Pickford and Chaplin were the two highest paid film stars in Hollywood at that time. To curtail these stars' astronomical salaries, the large studios attempted to monopolize distributors and exhibitors. By 1918, Fairbanks was Hollywood's most popular actor,[8] and within three years of his arrival, Fairbanks' popularity and business acumen raised him to the third-highest paid. In 1917, Fairbanks capitalized on his rising popularity by publishing a self-help book, Laugh and Live which extolled the power of positive thinking and self-confidence in raising one's health, business and social prospects.[9] To avoid being controlled by the studios and to protect their independence, Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith
D. W. Griffith
formed United Artists
United Artists
in 1919, which created their own distributorships and gave them complete artistic control over their films and the profits generated. The company was kept solvent in the years immediately after its formation largely by the success of Fairbanks' films.

The Mark of Zorro.

In late 1918, Sully was granted a divorce from Fairbanks, the judgment being finalized in early 1919. After the divorce, Fairbanks was determined to have Pickford become his wife, but she was still married to actor Owen Moore. He finally gave her an ultimatum. She then obtained a fast divorce in the small Nevada
town of Minden on March 2, 1920. Fairbanks leased the Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills
mansion Grayhall and was rumored to have used it during his courtship of Pickford. The couple married on March 28, 1920. Pickford's divorce from Moore was contested by Nevada
legislators, however, and the dispute was not settled until 1922. Even though the lawmakers objected to the marriage, the public went wild over the idea of "Everybody's Hero" marrying "America's Sweetheart." They were greeted by large crowds in London and Paris during their European honeymoon, becoming Hollywood's first celebrity couple. During the years they were married, Fairbanks and Pickford were regarded as "Hollywood Royalty," famous for entertaining at their Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills
estate, Pickfair.

Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
in the title role in Robin Hood
Robin Hood

By 1920, Fairbanks had completed twenty-nine films (twenty-eight features and one two-reel short), which showcased his ebullient screen persona and athletic ability. By 1920, he had the inspiration of staging a new type of adventure-costume picture, a genre that was then out of favor with the public; Fairbanks had been a comic in his previous films.[2] In The Mark of Zorro, Fairbanks combined his appealing screen persona with the new adventurous costume element. It was a smash success and parlayed the actor into the rank of superstar. For the remainder of his career in silent films he continued to produce and star in ever more elaborate, impressive costume films, such as The Three Musketeers (1921), Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
in Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Black Pirate
The Black Pirate
(1926), and The Gaucho (1927). Fairbanks spared no expense and effort in these films, which established the standard for all future swashbuckling films. In 1921, he, Pickford, Chaplin, and others, helped to organize the Motion Picture Fund to assist those in the industry who could not work, or were unable to meet their bills. During the first ceremony of its type, on April 30, 1927, Fairbanks and Pickford placed their hand and foot prints in wet cement at the newly opened Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Grauman's Chinese Theatre
in Hollywood. (In the classic comedy Blazing Saddles, Harvey Korman's villain character sees Fairbanks' prints at Grauman's and exclaims, "How do he do such fantastic stunts...with such little feet?") Fairbanks was elected first President of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences that same year, and he presented the first Academy Awards at the Roosevelt Hotel. Today, Fairbanks also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame
at 7020 Hollywood Boulevard. Career decline and retirement[edit] While Fairbanks had flourished in the silent genre, the restrictions of early sound films dulled his enthusiasm for film-making. His athletic abilities and general health also began to decline at this time, in part due to his years of chain-smoking.[10] On March 29, 1929, at Pickford's bungalow, United Artists
United Artists
brought together Pickford, Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, John Barrymore, D.W. Griffith
D.W. Griffith
and Dolores del Rio
Dolores del Rio
to speak on the radio show The Dodge Brothers Hour to prove Fairbanks could meet the challenge of talking movies.[11] Fairbanks's last silent film was the lavish The Iron Mask
The Iron Mask
(1929), a sequel to 1921's The Three Musketeers. The Iron Mask
The Iron Mask
included an introductory prologue spoken by Fairbanks. He and Pickford chose to make their first talkie as a joint venture, playing Petruchio
and Kate in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (1929). This film, and his subsequent sound films, were poorly received by Depression-era audiences. The last film in which he acted was the British production The Private Life of Don Juan (1934), after which he retired from acting.[citation needed] Fairbanks and Pickford separated in 1933, after he began an affair with Sylvia, Lady Ashley. They divorced in 1936, with Pickford keeping the Pickfair
estate.[12] Fairbanks and Ashley were married in Paris in March 1936.[13] He continued to be marginally involved in the film industry and United Artists, but his later years lacked the intense focus of his film years. His health continued to decline, and in his final years he lived at 705 Ocean Front (now Pacific Coast Highway) in Santa Monica, California, although much of his time was spent traveling abroad with third wife, Sylvia, Lady Ashley. Death[edit] On December 12, 1939, Fairbanks suffered a heart attack. He died later that day at his home in Santa Monica at the age of 56.[14] His last words were reportedly, "I've never felt better."[15] His funeral service was held at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather Church in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery where he was placed in a crypt in the Great Mausoleum.

Fairbanks's tomb at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Two years following his death, he was removed from Forest Lawn by his widow, Sylvia, who commissioned an elaborate marble monument for him featuring a long rectangular reflecting pool, raised tomb, and classic Greek architecture in Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
in Los Angeles.[citation needed] The monument was dedicated in a ceremony held in October 1941, with Fairbanks's close friend Charlie Chaplin reading a remembrance. The remains of his son, Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
Jr., were also interred there upon his death in May 2000.[citation needed] Legacy[edit]

Reissue poster for 1916 cocaine comedy The Mystery of the Leaping Fish.

In 1998, a group of Fairbanks fans started the Douglas Fairbanks Museum in Austin, Texas. The museum building was temporarily closed for mold remediation and repairs in February 2010.[16] In 2002, AMPAS
opened the "Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study" located at 333 S. La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The building houses the Margaret Herrick Library.[17] On November 6, 2008, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated the publication of their "Academy Imprints" book Douglas Fairbanks, authored by film historian Jeffrey Vance, with the screening of a new restoration print of The Gaucho
The Gaucho
with Vance introducing the film.[18] The following year, opening January 24, 2009, AMPAS
mounted a major Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
exhibition at their Fourth Floor Gallery titled, "Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood." The exhibit featured costumes, props, pictures, and documents from his career and personal life.[19] In addition to the exhibit, AMPAS
screened The Thief of Bagdad and The Iron Mask
The Iron Mask
in March 2009. Concurrently with the Academy's efforts, the Museum of Modern of Art held their first Fairbanks film retrospective in over six decades, titled "Laugh and Live: The Films of Douglas Fairbanks" which ran from December 17, 2008 – January 12, 2009. Jeffrey Vance
Jeffrey Vance
opened the retrospective with a lecture and screening of the restoration print of The Gaucho.[20] Recently, due to his involvement with the USC Fencing Club, a bronze statue of Fairbanks was erected in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Courtyard of the new School of Cinematic Arts
School of Cinematic Arts
building on the University of Southern California campus. Fairbanks was a key figure in the film school's founding in 1929, and in its curriculum development.[21][citation needed] The 2011 film The Artist was loosely based on Fairbanks, with the film's lead portraying Zorro
in a silent movie featuring a scene from the Fairbanks version.[citation needed] While thanking the audience in 2012 for a Golden Globe
Golden Globe
award as Best Actor for his performance in the film, actor Jean Dujardin
Jean Dujardin
added, "As Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
would say," then moved his lips silently as a comedic homage. When Dujardin accepted the 2011 Academy Award
Academy Award
for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Fairbanks was cited at length as the main inspiration for Dujardin's performance in The Artist.[citation needed] An important accolade given to the Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
legacy was a special screening of his masterpiece, The Thief of Bagdad, at the 2012 edition of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. On April 15, 2012, the festival concluded with a sold-out screening of the Fairbanks film held at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The evening was introduced by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance.[22] The nickname for the sports teams of the University of California-Santa Barbara is The Gauchos in honor of Fairbanks' acting in the eponymous film.[23]


Year Title Credited as

Role Producer Writer Director

1915 The Lamb Gerald

Martyrs of the Alamo Bit part

Double Trouble Florian Amidon / Eugene Brassfield

1916 His Picture in the Papers Pete Prindle

The Habit of Happiness Sunny Wiggins

The Good Bad Man Passin' Through


Reggie Mixes In Reggie Van Deuzen

The Mystery of the Leaping Fish Coke Ennyday / Himself

Flirting with Fate Augy Holliday

The Half-Breed Lo Dorman (Sleeping Water)

Intolerance Man on White Horse (French Story)

Manhattan Madness Steve O'Dare

American Aristocracy Cassius Lee

The Matrimaniac Jimmie Conroy

The Americano Blaze Derringer

1917 All-Star Production of Patriotic Episodes for the Second Liberty Loan Himself

In Again, Out Again Teddy Rutherford Yes

Wild and Woolly Jeff Hillington

Down to Earth Billy Gaynor Yes Yes

The Man from Painted Post "Fancy Jim" Sherwood


Reaching for the Moon Alexis Caesar Napoleon Brown Yes

A Modern Musketeer Ned Thacker Yes

1918 Headin' South Headin' South Yes

Mr. Fix-It Dick Remington Yes

Say! Young Fellow The Young Fellow Yes

Bound in Morocco George Travelwell Yes Yes

He Comes Up Smiling Jerry Martin Yes

Sic 'Em, Sam Democracy

Arizona Lt. Denton Yes Yes Yes

1919 The Knickerbocker Buckaroo Teddy Drake Yes Yes

His Majesty, the American William Brooks Yes Yes

When the Clouds Roll by Daniel Boone Brown Yes Yes

1920 The Mollycoddle Richard Marshall III, IV and V


The Mark of Zorro Don Diego Vega / Señor Zorro Yes Yes

1921 The Nut Charlie Jackson Yes Yes

The Three Musketeers d'Artagnan Yes Yes

1922 Robin Hood Robin Hood Yes Yes

1923 Hollywood Himself

1924 The Thief of Bagdad The Thief of Bagdad Yes Yes

1925 Don Q, Son of Zorro Don Cesar Vega / Zorro Yes

Ben-Hur Crowd extra in chariot race

1926 The Black Pirate The Black Pirate Yes Yes

1927 A Kiss From Mary Pickford Himself

The Gaucho The Gaucho Yes Yes

1928 Show People Himself

1929 The Iron Mask d'Artagnan Yes Yes

The Taming of the Shrew Petruchio

1930 Reaching for the Moon Larry Day Yes

1932 Mr. Robinson Crusoe Steve Drexel Yes Yes

1934 The Private Life of Don Juan Don Juan

Non-profit organization positions

Preceded by Position created President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 1927–1929 Succeeded by William C. deMille

See also[edit]

Biography portal

List of Freemasons


^ Obituary Variety, December 13, 1939, p. 54. ^ a b " Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
Sr. Biography". The Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
Museum. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008.  ^ "Full text of "The Film Daily (Oct-Dec 1946)"". Archive.org. Retrieved 2016-02-16.  ^ a b c d Goessel, TraceyThe First King of Hollywood; The Life of Douglas Fairbanks. Chicago
Review Press, 2016. ^ "Alexander Street Press Authorization". Asp6new.alexanderstreet.com. Retrieved 2016-02-16.  ^ a b "American Experience Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford
People & Events". PBS. Retrieved June 5, 2011.  ^ a b "Douglas Fairbanks". Flicker Alley. Archived from the original on August 16, 2013. Retrieved June 5, 2011.  ^ Richard Corliss (June 17, 1996). "The King of Hollywood". Time Magazine. Retrieved August 10, 2008.  ^ Douglas Fairbanks, Laugh and Live. New York, Britton, 1917. The work includes an afterward by journalist George Creel profiling Fairbanks as the epitome of American can-do manhood. ^ Vance, Jeffrey (2008). Douglas Fairbanks. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, pp. 162–163. ^ Ramon, David (1997). Dolores del Río. Clío. ISBN 968-6932-35-6.  ^ "Pickford divorce made final". Chicago
Daily Tribune. XCV (12). 14 January 1936. p. 3 – via newspapers.com.  ^ "Mr Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
weds Lady Ashley in Paris". The Scotsman (28,948). 9 March 1936. p. 16 – via British Newspaper Archive.  ^ "Doug Fairbanks Dies At His Home". Lawrence Journal-World. December 12, 1939. p. 10. Retrieved March 3, 2013.  ^ Robinson, R. (2003). Famous Last Words. New York: Workman Publishing, p. 1. ^ "Drymeout.com blog". Blog.drymeout.com. April 29, 2010. Retrieved June 5, 2011.  ^ "Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences". Oscars.org at the Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on October 3, 2014. Retrieved October 12, 2016. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) ^ Soares, Andre. " Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
in THE GAUCHO Academy Screening". Altfg.com. Retrieved 2016-02-16.  ^ "Douglas Fairbanks: The First King of Hollywood Exhibitions Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". Oscars.org. April 19, 2009. Archived from the original on March 9, 2010. Retrieved February 15, 2010.  ^ "Laugh and Live: The Films of Douglas Fairbanks". MoMA. Retrieved 2016-02-16.  ^ https://cinema.usc.edu/news/article.cfm?id=9771 ^ "'The Artist' is the buzz at the TCM Classic Film Festival". Latimesblogs.latimes.com. 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2016-02-16.  ^ "Nickname "Gauchos"". Retrieved November 14, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

Goessel, Tracey (October 1, 2015). The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago
Review Press. ISBN 978-1613734049.  Vance, Jeffrey (December 8, 2008). Douglas Fairbanks. Berkeley, California: Academy Imprints/University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25667-5. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Douglas Fairbanks.

Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
on IMDb Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
at the Internet Broadway Database
Internet Broadway Database
Works by Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
at Internet Archive Works by Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
at LibriVox
(public domain audiobooks) DouglasFairbanks.org official website, including news from 2005–2007; at the Wayback Machine DouglasFairbanks.wordpress.com (formerly DouglasFairbanks.org), including news from 2009–2012; at the Wayback Machine 100 Years of Doug tribute website run by a Fairbanks family member

v t e

Academy Honorary Award


Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
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Charlie Chaplin
(1928) Walt Disney
Walt Disney
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(1934) D. W. Griffith
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(1935) The March of Time
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/ W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson (1936) Edgar Bergen
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/ W. Howard Greene / Museum of Modern Art
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Film Library / Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
(1937) J. Arthur Ball / Walt Disney
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/ Deanna Durbin
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and Mickey Rooney
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/ Gordon Jennings, Jan Domela, Devereaux Jennings, Irmin Roberts, Art Smith, Farciot Edouart, Loyal Griggs, Loren L. Ryder, Harry D. Mills, Louis Mesenkop, Walter Oberst / Oliver T. Marsh and Allen Davey / Harry Warner
Harry Warner
(1938) Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
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and his associates / Rey Scott / British Ministry of Information (1941) Charles Boyer
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(1942) George Pal
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George Murphy
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Gene Kelly
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(1951) Merian C. Cooper
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(1952) 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation / Bell & Howell Company / Joseph Breen / Pete Smith (1953) Bausch & Lomb Optical Company / Danny Kaye
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(1956) Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
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(1958) Buster Keaton
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(1959) Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper
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Hayley Mills
(1960) William L. Hendricks / Fred L. Metzler / Jerome Robbins
Jerome Robbins
(1961) William J. Tuttle
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(1964) Bob Hope
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(1965) Yakima Canutt
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(1966) Arthur Freed (1967) John Chambers / Onna White (1968) Cary Grant
Cary Grant
(1969) Lillian Gish
Lillian Gish
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Orson Welles
(1970) Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
(1971) Charles S. Boren / Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson
(1972) Henri Langlois
Henri Langlois
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Groucho Marx
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Howard Hawks
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Jean Renoir
(1974) Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford


Margaret Booth (1977) Walter Lantz
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Laurence Olivier
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Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 32004709 LCCN: n50011599 ISNI: 0000 0001 1615 5152 GND: 118682997 SELIBR: 340020 SUDOC: 027271579 BNF: cb11934932j (data) NKC: ola2002161298 ICCU: ITICCUUBOV553559 BNE: XX4722767 SN