Douglas Fairbanks aka Elton Thomas

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Douglas Fairbanks aka Elton Thomas

Postby wpqx » Tue Jul 31, 2007 3:06 am

The Mark of Zorro (1920) - Fred Niblo

Well this film answers two questions. The first is what did Fred Niblo ever do besides Ben-Hur? The second is when did Douglas Fairbanks become an action hero? Fairbanks, who was already an independent producer with his own studio was best known for making comedies. Not the being chased by cops/pie in the face kind, but more of a situational kind. The wildly energetic Fairbanks wanted to try revamping his image, and it paid off to an enormous extent. So much so that for the remainder of his career, and his legacy thereafter he was a swashbuckling action star, and arguably the first great action hero in film. The Mark of Zorro was the first adaptation of the series of articles from Johnston McCulley called The Curse of Capistrano. Somehow The Mark of Zorro has a better ring to it, makes it sound less like a horror film.

Fairbanks realizing that having his own production company and top billing he downplayed his auteurish tendencies. In the cast of characters Fairbanks is the last name in the credits. Fairbanks also wrote the screenplay under his oft used alias Elton Thomas. Fairbanks would pen nearly all of his classic adventure films including Robin Hood and Thief of Baghdad. As if that weren't enough Fairbanks gives himself something of a dual role playing the rather namby pamby Don Diego as well as the ultra confident and self assured Zorro. Always doing his own stunts Fairbanks would participate in numerous sword fights throughout the film, but as was typical of the era (then and now) films were set up to be topped at a later date, so the death defying antics of Thief of Baghdad weren't present here. It seems fitting that Fairbanks would make The Three Musketeers and Robin Hood his next two projects considering they too deal with vigilante justice in the best sense of the word. These three films can serve as a bit of a trilogy for vigilante period pictures, but this is the one that can lay claim to starting the trend. Although not much good has ever come from the Zorro franchise Fairbanks makes a strong case for himself as the first true action hero here.
wpqx
 


Re: Douglas Fairbanks aka Elton Thomas

Postby wpqx » Tue Jul 31, 2007 5:38 am

Robin Hood (1922) - Allan Dwan

Bigger, longer, better? Fairbanks found that in the two short years since The Mark of Zorro that he had cornered a market on historical action spectacle. To commemorate this he actually put his name in the title of this film, copy written as Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood. Now commonly referred to as Robin Hood (at least on video) the film has existed in a variety of prints and variations. Some have tinting some don't, some are projected at correct speeds, others slowed down to 24 fps. The VHS and subsequent DVD release by Kino are believed to be the correct length, tint, and projection speed or so I believe. The film is a mighty 120 minutes, and a great deal of that time is spent admiring the ginormous sets constructed for the film. Fairbanks and then wife Mary Pickford purchased a former studio and proceeded to reconstruct a 12th Century England. Sad to think that sets of this size would be computer generated today, but there was a time when damn it people actually constructed this. Fairbanks not to be outdone by his surroundings steps up his acrobatics and practically flies through the film leaping and landing all over the place, but always with a spare minute to kick some game to the lovely Maid Marian (Enid Bennett). In the days before "special effects" there was actually a credited Trick Photographer (Paul Eagler). Much larger in scale than all of Fairbanks' previous efforts, this would even seem small when compared to his Thief of Baghdad. Although not the first adaptation of the Robin Hood legend, this along with the Curtiz version in 1938 have remained the best remembered.
wpqx
 

Re: Douglas Fairbanks aka Elton Thomas

Postby wpqx » Mon Aug 13, 2007 7:35 pm

Mr. Robinson Crusoe (1932) - Edward Sutherland

Douglas Fairbanks didn't do much with sound, and some people who see this film wouldn't bother to change their opinions. I for one admire the film. Fairbanks, who was responsible for the screen story, again under the name Elton Thomas, plays a city man who makes a bet he can live the life of Riley on a deserted island with nothing but a tooth brush. When his dog jumps overboard to join him, he throws the tooth brush back. Unlike most desert island films where the newly arrived would have some problems adapting at the start, Fairbanks seems to be absolutely perfect here. His boy scout training comes in real handy. Along with his dog they quickly find food, water, and start building a shelter.

The film is a monument to American imperialism. Within a month's time Fairbanks has proven himself smarter and better than the people who have been natives of these islands for centuries. He uses animals as his slaves, even having hot water, building a penthouse, and through some unexplainable way building a radio, even though there'd be no reception several hundred miles from land. The story would be boring with just Fairbanks proving that he's a superman genius so of course the conflict of a woman forced into a marriage on a nearby island is thrown in. She escapes and well who would of guessed it she winds up in Fairbanks arms and he has to fight off a horde of natives who just so happen to be cannibals. His slaves/animals help him out and he gets away just as his friends are arriving back from their hunting in Africa to shoot some natives and hail the white man with his remarkable intelligence and great weapons. A lot of this is hard to swallow, but Fairbanks charisma helps make it bearable.
wpqx
 

Re: Douglas Fairbanks aka Elton Thomas

Postby A » Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:55 am

The Three Musketeers (1921) - Fred Niblo

As part of our program to screen at least one silent film every to months at our cinema, we showed a copy of Douglas Fairbanks' The Three Musketeers (1921) this month (the one before that had been my favourite Lubitsch, Die Bergkatze from 1920). Like The Mark of Zorro one year earlier this one was also directed by Fred Niblo, who I finally seem to find some interest in.

After reading wpqx's comments on the subsequent Fairbanks production Robin Hood (1922), which I haven't yet seen myself, I have to believe The Three Musketeers was made and conceived in the same way. Huge and eloborate sets which must have cost a fortune, combined with some action scenes in a running time of 119 minutes that must have seemed epic for a supposed action film at those times. Unfortunately the 16mm print we received must have been one of the worst prints (if not THE worst) I had ever set my eyes on. The set-design was almost impossible to glimpse in its beauty, and the characters were often mere shadows who couldn't be recognized by there faces in certain scenes, but only out of the context of the film. The print was also missing some footage (unfortunately most of it action-related), but it wasn't only because of that one absolutely had to be familiar with the storyline of Dumas' novel to follow the plot. I find "The Three Musketeers" to be among the very best of literature ever produced, and so far all attempts I've seen who tried to adapt it for the screen (and there were quite many) have failed miserably in this aspect. It's not so much that the novel doesn't lend itself to adaptation. the problem is that you cannot compress a work of hundreds of pages into a movie of two or three hours. One would probably need at least ten of those to do the complexity of the material justice. Nevertheless I've found most versions of the novel so far very entertaining, and I always try to see an additional one if I find an opportunity to do so. Fairbanks' version was very entertaining (if I am allowed to draw such a conclusion after seeing such a horrible print), and judging by the reactions of the rather huge audience most of them would have agreed with me. Fairbanks portraits the flamboyant D'Artagnan with much gusto, and I absolutely have to see the film again to properly enjoy the incredible sets and the seemingly impressive cinematography. As far as entertainment value goes, this is one of Fairbanks' best entries. The direction by Fred Niblo seemed (as usual) a bit lacking though, having the most problems with a proper pace for the storyline and a constant rhythm which is never achieved. Some moments are incredibly (and unncecessarily) dragged out, while much of the fun is presented in too short a time-span.
A
 

Re: Douglas Fairbanks aka Elton Thomas

Postby wpqx » Mon Nov 26, 2007 7:05 am

I am still a fan of the Richard Lester version. You may want to hunt down the DVD Kino put out of The Three Musketeers, the print is infinitely better and was color tinted. I'm just glad someone is watching Fairbanks besides me.
wpqx
 

Re: Douglas Fairbanks aka Elton Thomas

Postby A » Wed Jan 30, 2008 6:34 am

I do own the Kino DVD, and I was considering a rewatch this morning, but I decided for a Lon Chaney film instead.
I do love Fairbanks btw., and I always enjoy his movies, although I still haven't seen a film of his that would impress me.
A
 


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