Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Visits Dallas, Texas

In 1962, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. guest starred in Route 66, a television show about the adventures of two guys, played by Martin Milner and George Maharis, as they travel along Route 66 in their Corvette convertible. Fairbanks plays a criminal, Charles Clayton, who, in a desperate move, leaves his sanctuary in Brazil to return to the United States to stop his daughter from becoming a nun. All the while, he is having to dodge the Dallas Police Department and journalists at the Dallas Times Herald. As one of the first television shows to film on location, the entire episode takes place in Dallas, Texas and made the episode a fun watch for this Texan. The episode sent me on a deep investigation of the filming locations and here’s what I discovered.

First, some background on the episode: “Kiss the Maiden All Forlorn.”

The series leads, Tod and Buz, find themselves involved in a private family matter when they stop just south of Dallas, Texas to assist a young girl who is having car troubles. It turns out, she is the daughter of an infamous criminal, Charles Clayton, and her car has been tampered with to prevent her from arriving at the covent where she is studying to be a nun. Hot on her tail are two of her father’s conspirators who kidnap her along with Tod and Buz. While rather hostile, these measures are taken so that Clayton can simply attempt to dissuade his daughter from joining the covent.

The episode contains some surprisingly deep and emotional conversations between Clayton and his daughter who he feels is becoming a nun to atone for his sins. Clayton questions the idea of giving oneself to a convent. He feels it is a waste of a life and questions how one feels a so-called “calling” to serve God in this way. The issues that are raised by Clayton are heavy and feel rather modern. The emotions between father and daughter are touching. It is clear that while there is a rift between the two, there is also a deep love and understanding of one another. I’ll not spoil the ending by revealing whether or not she heeds the advice of her father.

Part of what intrigued me most was that the episode was filmed on location in Dallas, Texas. I call this part of Texas home, so I enjoyed seeing familiar locations. I had to know more about Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.’s time in Dallas! This spurred me to do a little digging on the making of the episode.

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Dallas Morning News, March 13, 1962

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.’s arrival was announced in the Dallas Morning News on March 13, 1962. He was set to arrive at Love Field from New York City on Braniff’s Flight No. 1 at 11:45 a.m. on that very day. Love Field was the primary Dallas airport until 1974 and is still one of two major airports in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I could find no mention in the newspaper about how long filming took place or how long Fairbanks spent in Dallas during this particular visit. In fact, this was the only snippet I found in the Dallas Morning News for the entire year of 1962 aside from brief mentions of the episode being on television.

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Dallas Morning News

The episode begins at the offices of the Dallas Times Herald. The Dallas Times Herald newspaper ran from 1888-1991 and was one of two major daily newspapers in Dallas. It won three Pulitzer Prizes, including one for the famous photograph of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald at the Texas Theatre. The building shown in Route 66 is located at the intersection of Griffin and Patterson. It is now home to the KDFW Fox 4 news station.

We are then introduced to our two main characters, Tod and Buz, as they drive along a country road in their Corvette. A roadside sign shows that Dallas is 17 miles away. Later, investigators refer to this area as Parkersville. I first searched for a city of Parkersville in Texas but discovered that no such place exists. Looking on the map, I found a Parkersville Road just south of Dallas. Bingo! Viewing it on Google Maps confirmed that it was indeed the filming location for that scene. It looks only slightly different sixty years later!

Screencap-Parkersville-Road

Several of the Dallas landmarks shown in the episode are in what is known as the Harwood Historic District in downtown. The area is both architecturally significant and rich with Dallas’ cultural history. It contained the United Artists Film Exchange, the Warner Brothers (Vitagraph) Film Exchange, the Paramount Pictures building, and the Majestic Theatre. Most of these buildings still exist today. The architecture in the area is varied and includes examples of Art Deco, Beaux-Arts, Modern, Renaissance Revival, Neo-Classical, and more. One such example is the Beaux-Arts styled Municipal Building (shown below) designed by C.D. Hill & Company in 1913.

One of the first views we get of Downtown Dallas is of Harwood Street looking toward the historic First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, built in 1882, and the Lone Star Gas Co. building, built in 1924 with later additions built in 1931. The modern day view below is from the intersection of Harwood and Jackson. Unfortunately, the view of the church is now obstructed by a tree but the dome is still visible.

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First Presbyterian Church (x)

In the episode, Fairbanks mentions that he would like to be picked up at the northwest corner in front of the library. He is referring specifically to the Dallas Public Library built in 1955 at 1954 Commerce Street. The library has since moved but the original building still stands. I used the library as my starting point for determining where each building was located. We first see Fairbanks pass in front of a traveling agency and a parking garage. At the end of this scene we see a street sign that says S 100 Harwood at the corner of the building Fairbanks was passing by. The building no longer exists but was once a large commercial building with storefronts and a parking garage. It is now home to the Main Street Garden Park which was established in 2009.

Screencap-1

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Main Street Garden Park

Another building prominently featured is the Statler. As Fairbanks walks down the sidewalk, he looks across the street at a large curved building. Its unique features made it easy to identify. The Statler was built in 1956 as part of the Hilton Hotel family. Its modern design was done by William B. Tabler and was touted as the first modern American hotel. It was said to be the first hotel to set industry precedents such as elevator music and televisions in every room. The hotel also helped establish Dallas as a leading business center for the Southwest region. The building remained a hotel until 2001 and re-opened in 2017 after a lengthy restoration process.

Early in the episode we see a Holiday Inn with the classic mid-century sign. Presumably, this is where many of the interior shots are taken when Fairbanks, as Clayton, meets up with his daughter. I discovered two possible locations for the hotel in a 1961 Dallas City Directory. One, being at 7800 Lemmon Street, across from Love Field, and the other being at 4070 North Central Expressway. As far as I can tell, the building is no longer at either of these locations but I imagine it was newly built when filming took place.

Screencap-Holiday-Inn-Dallas

The final filming location seen twice in the episode is a lake referred to as Lake Dallas. Fairbanks’ character is flown in and out of Dallas by seaplane to prevent the police from finding him at an airport. The plane is an Italian Piaggio P.136, or Royal Gull, manufactured between 1948-1961. Only 63 of them were produced. The lake shown in these scenes is Lake Lewisville, located just northwest of Dallas. The lake was created in 1927 and in 1960 the federal government attempted to re-name it Lewisville Reservoir. In 1961, that decision was reversed and it went back to being Lake Dallas. The lake was interchangeably referred to as Lake Dallas and Lake Lewisville until the mid-1970s when it was officially designated as Lake Lewisville.

The one building I had trouble identifying was the convent. It may not even be a convent in real life. Toward the end of the episode, we see Tod and Buz exit the building, giving us a decent view of it. I am open to any suggestions on what the building is and if it still exists!

Screencap-nun

 

You can watch the episode now, for free on Amazon Prime with an account. Or, you can purchase a DVD of the series. Special thanks to Harry Max Hill for alerting me of Fairbanks’ episode being available on Prime which allowed me to cover the episode here.

4 thoughts on “Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Visits Dallas, Texas

  1. What a great post! I love Doug (please see my web tribute, it’s been around since 1999) and I love Route 66! And I love Dallas, I finally got to visit last August and this post brings back great memories of my visit. Thanks for such an intriguing post!

    Liked by 1 person

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