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Archive for October, 2010

 

The Douglas Fairbanks Museum recently provided research materials to the History Channel for an upcoming  documentary about the use of language in film.

Vintage news articles from the museum’s newspaper and magazine archives were requested by the network specifically pertaining to the 1916 Douglas Fairbanks comedy, The Habit of Happiness – reportedly the first Hollywood film to contain a curse word. And this was in the silent days before spoken dialogue!

Although there are no swear words in the printed title cards, Fairbanks reportedly swore up a blue streak in one particular scene, sparking a nationwide lip-reading movie controversy.

 

 

From the 1917 book "Laugh and Live" by Douglas Fairbanks. Original in the museum's library.

 

 

Fairbanks fans may already be familiar with the story of Sunny Wiggins, the film’s central character. He’s convinced that laughter can cure any ailment and to prove his point, he conducts an experiment: find the saddest, sickest characters on earth and heal them with happiness. He decides to test his theory on a group of street-hardened “bums” at the local homeless shelter.

Douglas Fairbanks (always a stickler for authenticity) decided to make the scene as realistic as possible, hiring actual direlects from skid row instead of professional actors.

Things didn’t quite work out as planned, however; despite Doug’s many attempts to crack them up with his best gags, the men weren’t at all amused. At wits’ end, Fairbanks thus began to tell some extremely ribald and off-color stories – only this got the sad sacks to elicit a genuine chuckle before finally erupting into all-out belly laughs.

When the film was initially released by Triangle Pictures in 1916, complaints from deaf lip-readers who could grasp the flurry of Fairbanks’ profanities caused the offending scenes to be re-shot and distributed anew to theatres.

“It’s a hilarious story,” museum curator Keri Leigh says, “and I always enjoy telling it to our visitors. Although I still maintain that no one could tell the story better than Doug himself.”

Fairbanks did write his own version of the now-infamous event in an article called “Combining Play With Work,” which originally appeared in the American Magazine for July 1917.

A complete reprint of the 1917 article appears in the book Douglas Fairbanks: In His Own Words, a literary collection of Fairbanks’ writings published by the museum in 2006.

 

Leigh says that consulting with the producers on this documentary film was “a wonderful opportunity for the museum to further our mission of educating a younger generation about who Douglas Fairbanks was. We want kids especially to learn of his importance to the history and development of the cinematic arts.”

The educational documentary, which is geared towards school-age children, will be broadcast in early 2011. Stay tuned to the museum’s blog for further announcements as the air date nears.

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Dominick Fairbanks, grandson of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., great-grandson of Fairbanks Sr.

LONDON — A ¬£75 million ($120 million) movie based on Baroness Orczy’s classic “The Scarlet Pimpernel” is front and center of seriously ambitious production plans for Fairbanks Productions, the U.K.’s newest and big-talking filmmaking banner on the block.

Dominick Fairbanks, the great grandson and grandson of Hollywood legends Douglas Fairbanks and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., plans to bring his famous Hollywood family name into the 21st century with his production banner upstart.

His team for the launch includes cult British writer and director Michael Armstrong, who takes the role of head of creative development, and executive producer James Black.

On hand at an extravagant old school launch for the next generation of Fairbanks’ royalty at a private function held here in the famous Dorchester Grill in the central London hotel, the third generation Fairbanks unveiled his team and plans.

The company aims to launch a slate of productions in early 2011 but Black told The Hollywood Reporter a remake of “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” starring upcoming Brit actor Neil Jackson, whose big screen credits include a turn in “Quantum Of Solace,” is front and center.

“We want to try and do to the story of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” what Guy Ritchie did to ‘Sherlock Holmes’ [for Warner Bros],” said Black.

Plans are to shoot the picture sometime in the latter half of next year, “somewhere in Eastern Europe,” according to Black, with a host of “high profile cameos” in the movie.

But the production banner is not all about big-budget dreams.

Black, Fairbanks and Armstrong are all committed to the family dynasty’s commitment to nurturing and creating talent behind the camera for the future.

The upstart banner has already committed to make “Kill The Dead,” an original script from award-winning short filmmaker Shaune Harrison, its first fully-financed picture.

Harrison’s script, which he will direct, is set in the near future and details a reality TV show where contestants kill people recently brought back to life for that purpose.

With a budget of a moderate ¬£5 million ($8 million), “Kill the Dead” will set out the company’s stall for supporting fresh talent and storytelling. Harrison said he has just delivered the second draft of “Dead” to Fairbanks and hopes to make it next year. Harrison’s day job is as a prosthetic make up artist of repute whose credits include “Captain America” and the “Harry Potter” movies.

The company has backing from a “tapestry of high-networth individuals,” according to Black and also has commercial relationships with U.S. bank Metro Bank, whose Anthony Thompson was on hand to talk up the proposed launch of the U.K.’s latest retail banking enterprise and HSBC.

Fairbanks Productions has also engaged U.K. legal eagles Harbottle and Lewis to add gravitas to the ambitions.

Douglas Fairbanks starred in a myriad Hollywood productions and was one of the founders of United Artists in 1919. His son, Fairbanks Jr., a decorated soldier on both sides of the Atlantic after serving in PT boats and gunboats in WW2 followed in his father’s footsteps carving out a successful career in movies also.

From The Hollywood Reporter

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