Douglas Fairbanks was the first president of the Academy, and the first host of The Oscars, a ceremony that lasted all of 15 minutes…

This actor went from playing summer stock to work with D.W. Griffith at Triangle Pictures. On the rise he was spotted for his comedic talent by Anita Loos and John Emerson – but still nobody took note of his athleticism. He worked at Paramount and by 1918 he was box office gold known for epics and action. In the teens and twenties he was referred to as the King (of Hollywood). Fairbanks was a founding member of United Artists and the Motion Picture Academy. He was instrumental in establishing the Motion Picture Fund which now covers health and pension benefits and at its inception (1921) covered workers that had fallen on hard times.

Douglas Fairbanks far right, signing United Artists into being, courtesy the Library of Congress (1919):

He met Mary Pickford in 1916 and they married in 1920:

They made their home at Pickfair:

He hosted the first Academy Awards (1929), a private black tie dinner at the Roosevelt and the awards were announced months in advance. The first actress to win an award was Janet Gaynor for her work in “Sunrise”, “7th Heaven, and “Street Angel” – look at the expression on her face:

Imagine walking into your film class at USC and…


  1. When Griffith, Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks formed this studio it might have been the first great Hollywood earthquake for it surely shook the earth for miles around. I love reading about this period. Great photos.

    • One of the big studio moguls of the day supposedly said, “the inmates are taking over the asylum” — but what the actors wanted was control over their schedule and creative choice. It’s always been a delicate situation between management and talent, to put it mildly.

  2. George Kaplan

    It’s a pity that United Artists didn’t last all that long in its original form. I didn’t know (or had forgotten) that Douglas Fairbanks helped set up the Motion Picture Fund. Good for him. (ironic that he’s on the far right of the image above :))

  3. Still obviously suffering from lack of sleep.A very British bugger re the mistake.Had I made more of a typo then I might have spelt arty for ealy and made some sense.I shall have to read everything I write most carefully.

  4. Pingback: Happy 118th Birthday Dorothy Gish | Waldina

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