THE SALAD DAYS by Douglas Jr. Fairbanks
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Fairbanks' autobiography, like Myrna Loy's recent memoir, gains greatly by being in his own debonair voice. This is only the first half of the Fairbanks' life-story, carrying him from birth in 1909 to the beginning of WW II. It is full of Dad (whom young Fairbanks called Pete) and Dad's second wife (Mary Pickford), international affairs, and much kiss and tell among the stars. Fairbanks pitches his story not only on the top flights of the Hollywood heavens but also among the wealthiest grandees and snobs of the English-speaking world, which is of course only natural for the Son of Pickfair, the hub of royalty in the Hollywood universe. Early on he wanted to be a writer, published verse in the old Vanity Fair, short stories in Esquire, and scripted in pleasurably lyrical blank verse Max Ophuls' charming film The Exile (1947). He remains fairly modest about his quite full but mediocre film career during the Golden Age, admits that he might still enjoy his work in The Dawn Patrol, Little Caesar, The Prisoner of Zenda, and Gunga Din. He was, however, always saddled with his father's fame and incredible success, and tried to land roles that allowed for versatility beyond swashbuckling. His love life seems always to have been conducted with the most famous stars. His marriage to Joan Crawford (whom he married at 19 while she was 24) collapsed after she had a two-year affair with Clark Gable, consummated many times over in a portable dressing room young Doug bought for her. He remained an eligible bachelor through affairs with Gertrude Lawrence and Marlene Dietrich, through periods of wooing Kate Hepburn and Vera Zorina, among others; and through splendid adventures with Chaplin, John Barrymore, Larry Olivier, and David Niven. He subsequently married young Mary Lee (wealthy ex-wife of A&P millionaire Huntington Hartford), was sent on a fact-finding tour of South America by FDR, and joined the US Navy as a sea-going deck officer. A beautifully seasoned salad, which may turn out to be the entree.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Doubleday