RIP Douglas Fairbanks (May 23, 1883 – December 12, 1939)

Charlie & Doug, c. 1917

Charlie was introduced to Douglas by Constance Collier in 1916 & the two quickly became very good friends. When Charlie made his films, he depended on Douglas’ enthusiasm & reassurance. He later told Mary Pickford (Fairbanks’ ex-wife), “Whenever I made a particular scene I would always anticipate the pleasure it would give Douglas.”

In 1918, Charlie was so discouraged with his film Shoulder Arms that he considered “throwing it in the ash can.” He changed his mind after he showed the film to Doug during a special screening: “From the beginning Fairbanks went into roars of laughter, stopping only for coughing spells. Sweet Douglas, he was my greatest audience.”

Charlie with Douglas on the set of The Great Dictator. Reginald Gardiner is on the right. 

Shortly before he died, Doug visited the set of The Great Dictator. Charlie remembered that he “laughed uproariously” at some of the scenes he filmed.  This was the last time Charlie saw the man whom he would later say was his only friend in Hollywood.  There was no shooting at the Chaplin Studio the day of the funeral. Afterwards, Charlie told Mary Pickford, with a catch in his voice, “Mary, I couldn’t bear to see them put that heavy stone over Douglas.”

Twenty-five years later in his autobiography, Charlie remembered his dear friend: “I have missed Douglas–I have missed the warmth of his enthusiasm and charm; I have missed his friendly voice over the telephone, that used to call me up on a bleak and lonely Sunday morning: ‘Charlie, coming up for lunch – then for a swim – then for dinner – then afterwards, see a picture?’ Yes, I have missed his delightful friendship.”

Charlie delivers the eulogy at the dedication of the Douglas Fairbanks Memorial at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, May 25, 1941.  Chaplin read these words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which are also inscribed on Fairbanks’ tomb: “Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” (Photo: Jeffrey Vance, Chaplin: Genius Of The Cinema)

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