Famous Family History Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Parents Part 1

About the family of actor Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., biography and history of mother and father.


DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, SR. (1883-1939), U.S. actor

Fairbanks began his acting career on the stage, but his great athletic ability, immense charm, and suave good looks soon made him the "King of Hollywood." He is known especially for his swashbuckling roles in such films as The Mark of Zorro, Robin Hood, and The Three Musketeers. Along with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford, Fairbanks founded the United Artists Corporation in 1919. He was married to Pickford, "America's Sweetheart," from 1920 to 1935.

His Roots: The father of Douglas Fairbanks (born Douglas Elton Ulman) was Hezekiah Charles Douglas Ulman (1833-1915), who was born in Berrysburg, Pa., the fourth child in a relatively well-to-do Jewish family of six sons and four daughters. When he was 17, Charles started a small publishing business in Philadelphia. Two years later he left for New York to study law. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1856 and began building a substantial practice. At the onset of the Civil War, Charles joined the Union forces. He engaged in several battles, was wounded, and later became a captain of the reserves. Charles left the service in 1864 and returned to his law practice. Subsequently he founded the U.S. Law Association, a forerunner of the American Bar Association.

Charles met Ella Adelaide Marsh (1847-1915) after she married his friend and client John Fairbanks, a wealthy New Orleans sugar mill and plantation owner. The Fairbankses had a son, John, and shortly thereafter John Senior died of tuberculosis. Ella, born into a wealthy southern Catholic family, was overprotected and knew little of her husband's business. Consequently, she was swindled out of her fortune by her husband's partners. Even the efforts of Charles Ulman, acting on her behalf, failed to regain any of the family fortune for her. Distraught and lonely, she met and married a courtly Georgian, Edward Wilcox, who turned out to be an alcoholic. After they had a son, Norris, she divorced Wilcox, and Charles acted as her lawyer in the suit. The pretty southern belle soon became romantically involved with Charles and agreed to move to Denver with him to pursue mining investments. They arrived in Denver in 1881 with her son, John. (Norris was left in Georgia with relatives and was never sent for by his mother.) They were married and had a child, Robert, in 1882, and then a second son, Douglas, a year later.

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