Douglas Elton Fairbanks, Jr. KBE was an American actor and a highly decorated naval officer of World War II.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was born in New York City, the son of actor Douglas Fairbanks, and his first wife, Anna Beth Sully. His parents divorced when he was nine years old. He lived with his mother in New York, California, Paris and London.
Fairbanks’ father was one of cinema’s first icons, noted for such swashbuckling adventure films as The Mark of Zorro, Robin Hood and The Thief of Bagdad. Largely on the basis of his father’s name, Fairbanks, Jr. was given a contract with Paramount Pictures at age 14. After making some undistinguished films, he took to the stage, where he impressed his father, his stepmother Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin, who encouraged him to continue with acting.
He began his career during the silent film era. He initially played mainly supporting roles in a range of films featuring many of the leading female players of the day: Belle Bennett in Stella Dallas, Esther Ralston in An American Venus and Pauline Starke in Women Love Diamonds. In the last years of the silent period he was upped to star billing opposite Loretta Young in several pre-Code films and Joan Crawford in Our Modern Maidens. He supported John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in Woman of Affairs. Progressing to sound, he played opposite Katharine Hepburn in her Oscar-winning role in the film Morning Glory .