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The Museum of Modern Art Celebrates the Legendary Films of Douglas Fairbanks
The Mark of Zorro (1920). Directed by Fred Niblo. Photo: MoMA Film Archive. © 2008 The Museum of Modern Art.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art celebrates the classic films of Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) with a 20-film exhibition that highlights the all-American actor’s adventurous, swashbuckling career. Bringing together such Hollywood favorites as The Gaucho (1928), The Mark of Zorro (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921), and Mr. Robinson Crusoe (1932), the 20-film exhibition will be screened from December 17, 2008, through January 31, 2009, in The Roy and Niuta Titus theaters. Laugh and Live takes its title from Fairbanks’s 1917 book of the same name, in which he promoted his optimistic outlook as the key to happiness and success. It also marks the 70th anniversary of MoMA’s acquisition of the Douglas Fairbanks Collection, which contains approximately twenty of his independently produced features, as well as numerous reels of home movies featuring himself and his wife, Mary Pickford, taken at Pickfair and on various trips abroad.

The series is organized by Steven Higgins, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

Jeffrey Vance, author of Douglas Fairbanks (University of California Press & Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 2008), will introduce the opening night screening of The Gaucho on December 17.

Born in Santa Monica, California, Douglas Fairbanks was a 35-year-old veteran of live theater when he made his first films in 1915 for D.W. Griffith’s Fine Arts studio. There, he created the character of “Doug,” a breezy, all-American go-getter who seemed to move effortlessly though life and across the screen. He left the following year and began working independently, eventually becoming one of the founders of United Artists in 1919. The following year, with the release of The Mark of Zorro, he moved into the production of big-budget costume films, averaging one a year for the rest of the 1920s.

Even before he attained the status of a Hollywood icon, Fairbanks was an excellent athlete who performed most of his stunts in such films as The Mollycoddle (1920), Robin Hood (1923), and The Iron Mask (1929).

His career overlapped with that of his son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a legendary leading man in such films as Stella Dallas (1925) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1937).

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