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The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  115 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Silent film superstar Douglas Fairbanks was an absolute charmer. Irrepressibly vivacious, he spent his life leaping over and into things, from his early Broadway successes to his marriage to the great screen actress Mary Pickford to the way he made Hollywood his very own town. The inventor of the swashbuckler, he wasn’t only an actor—he all but directed and produced his mo ...more
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published October 1st 2015 by Chicago Review Press
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Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. could be described in many terms, "buoyant, breezy, daring, agile, enthusiastic, intensely earnest, peppery, live and wide-awake." In fact, I stole this quote directly from Tracey Goessel's new, and dare I say, landmark biography of Fairbanks entitled The First King of Hollywood The Life of Douglas Fairbanks published this month by Chicago Review Press.
Douglas Fairbanks was many things besides as swashbuckler, he was also a pioneer, astute businessman, ardent lover a
Maurice Tougas
Feb 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm torn on The First King of Hollywood.
While there is no doubt that Douglas Fairbanks — one of Hollywood's first megastars and a fascinating character — is worthy of an extensive biography, writer Tracey Goessel succumbs to one of the cardinal sins of biography writers: the inability to decide what's worth including, and what isn't.
Fairbanks virtually created the swashbuckler genre. At the peak of his powers and popularity, he was at least the equal of Chaplin (and his wife, another sile
JoAnne McMaster (Any Good Book)
What can you say about Douglas Fairbanks? Those who know of him, already know what he meant to Hollywood. They know he was married to Mary Pickford, and they, along with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, created United Artists. It was Douglas Fairbanks who created the original swashbuckler pictures (which his son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., continued to make through the years), and helped begin the career of that marvelous director, Wild Bill Wellman.

But this book is so much more. At a
Aug 17, 2015 rated it liked it
As a fan of old movies, I'm really happy that I won this book through Goodreads' First Reads giveaway. And, I would have given this book 3.5 stars if we could give half stars.

Most of the movie star biographies that I have read were for stars who made their mark in the 1930s and 1940s. This was my first Silent Star bio. Before I read this book, I was more familiar with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. than I was with his father. What I knew about Doug Sr. was that he was married to Mary Pickford
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Years ago author Tracey Goessel purchased a collection of Fairbanks and Pickford's love letters and this treasure trove was the seedling that grew into this book. Goessel is a silent film expert, founder of the Film Preservation Society, on the board of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and has given many talks about Fairbanks and his films.

Goessel's scholarship shows in the level of detail uncovered and shared within the pages of this book. What should make us willingly give ou
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This new biography of superstar Douglas Fairbanks is affectionate but objective, rigorously and carefully researched, and makes excellent use of heretofore unpublished letters between Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Goessel has a wry, pleasant writing style and although she is a Fairbanks fan, she does not shy away from examining her subject's flaws and peccadillos. As much fun as it is to watch a Professional Boy on film, living with a Professional Boy is another beast entirely. The letters provid ...more
Katie Kwon
Mar 20, 2016 rated it liked it
I don't really care for silent films, but enjoyed reading the descriptions from an author who is passionate about them. This was good to read with a phone in hand to see YouTube clips and pictures. The lack of photos was a serious omission. And after referring several times to events after Fairbanks' death, it could have used one more chapter to flesh out those details. Interesting read and well written overall.
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Movie adventure was invented by Fairbanks. And as was initial movie stardom. However revisit, if you can, his first madcap comedies pre-swashbuckler. Pure genius. Great bio of Hollywood life that slides into sad decline.
Susan Bell
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love old Hollywood and I've read many books on the subject. This is one of the best I've read in a long while. The tragic love story of Doug and Mary is heartbreaking. Highly recommended!
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An insightful biography of cinema's first action hero, exploring what made him so popular and influential, and how his career declined with the onset of sound cinema.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
He was a teenager when he left home to act in a traveling troupe and hit Broadway before he was 20. He shot to fame in film, reigned at the box office for fifteen years, and retired at age 51.

He was not a particularly handsome, but had a winning smile and a charismatic personality. In his closet were up to 70 suits and 35 overcoats, 50 pair of shoes and 300 neckties.

He signed a vow to not drink as a boy and kept it until the last ten years of his life. He avoided overt sexuality yet
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was really interesting - I can't really remember hearing anything about Douglas Fairbanks, which is kind of sad since a lot of his contributions have been forgotten. I picked this up after finishing Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood and becoming interested in Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks as the original Hollywood power couple. So much of what Hollywood lifestyle is was established by him and Pickford.

This really put movie history into perspective.
Susan Johnston
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Douglas Fairbanks is not a name that hordes of people would know unless they are students of silent films. But in his day, his was not only a household name. he, with his wife, Mary Pickford, were the king and queen of Hollywood and the world.
Think of any superstar today and Fairbanks outshone them because he not only was the king of film but he was a producer and architect of much of what we take for granted in movies today.
Fairbanks and Pickford together with his best friend, Charl
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Having read biographies of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s memoir, and many books about film history, I thought I knew all about Douglas Fairbanks but I was wrong. There is much to be learned and admired about the man in this fun-to-read and informative biography. Goessel really gives you a feeling about what the man was like as a person (exuberant, energetic to the extreme, creative) and gives fascinating details about some of his films and how they came in to being. I had no idea he did ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
The First King of Hollywood by Tracey Goessel is a free NetGalley ebook that I read from late, late July into early August. As a copy of Thief of Baghdad gathers dust on my livingroom floor in the To Watch pile, I really wanted to give this book a try to see what this actor's full breadth of work is like.

The hearsay I had on Doug was pretty much right - he's zany, high-energy, hypermasculine, spritely, debonnaire, and feels emotion so very fully as evidenced by his love and desire for Mary P
Wisconsin Alumni
Tracey Goessel ’78, MD’82

From the author:
Fairbanks was the top male star of his generation, the maker of some of the greatest films of his era: The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro. He was fun, witty, engaging, creative, athletic, and a force to be reckoned with. He shaped our idea of the Hollywood hero, and Hollywood has never been the same since. His story, like his movies, is full of passion, bravado, romance, and desire. Here at last is his definitive bi
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
***I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway***

Douglas Fairbanks was a silent film star who led a mostly non-scandalous life. He basically shaped modern day Hollywood, which is amazing, and yet I had never heard of him before this book. I have to give credit to the writer...this book was incredibly well written and flowed nicely and never dragged along. She focused on being fair and accurate, and not giving in to gossip. So this book is a step above many in terms of classiness. Now I n
Polly Krize
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Very well-researched look into the life of Douglas Fairbanks. It is always thrilling to read about the "old Hollywood" stars and this book does not disappoint. With his good looks and strong drive to win, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were a powerful couple who ultimately created United Artists. I was surprised there were no photographs included...was this perhaps only in my copy? Recommended.
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful read

I enjoy silent movies and totally loved "The Black Pirate" and "The Thief of Bagdad." But I never knew too much about Douglas Fairbanks beyond mentions in biographies and memoirs. This was an excellent way to learn more about an intelligent, gifted, hyperactive person. Loved the inside look at his marriage with Mary Pickford.
Patrick Elsey
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing read and made me want to track down some of his films (most of which I've never seen).

My only problem with it is it didn't really capture who Faribanks interacted with the rest of Hollywood at the time. It barely seems to have captured his life with Pickford let alone his interactions with anyone else.
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book! One of the best actor bios I've ever read. Easygoing style, thoroughly informative and very well researched, and made me want to see more of Fairbanks' films - which aren't my style usually. It's obvious Goessel truly loves her subject!
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Engaging biography of one of the greatest silent stars (great enough that clips of one of his films were used in "The Artist" and still seemed fresh). Full of information about Fairbanks and the industry. Great selection of photographs.
Lori Shafer
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Old Hollywood has always fascinated me and I looked forward to reading this biography of Douglas Fairbanks. Goessel has made Fairbanks story a lovely read. Although the fact and fiction is included, I found the book enjoyable and a quick read.
Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not only an interesting biography of Douglas Fairbanks but a good history of early American cinema and the theater scene from which both he and Mary Pickford migrated from to the movies. Many interesting nuggets about the legends and founding fathers of the industry.
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Review to come.
rated it it was amazing
Mar 02, 2018
rated it it was amazing
Jan 22, 2016
Lynn Granzyk
rated it it was ok
Aug 22, 2016
rated it really liked it
May 28, 2016
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