Book Review: “The Fourth Musketeer,” by Letitia Fairbanks and Ralph Hancock, edited by Kelley Smoot, 2019

It is said that American royalty is made up of the larger-than-life entertainers that dominate our popular culture. They are said to represent our ideals, influence our appearances, and even live in castle-like homes where they are often seen as untouchable. The reign of the American movie star was on the rise in the ever-growing movie industry of the early twentieth century and by the 1920s, Hollywood had its first King and Queen. At the head of the throne were the newly married Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. The Fourth Musketeer, by Letitia Fairbanks and Ralph Hancock and edited by Kelley Smoot, takes readers on a journey through the life of Hollywood’s first king, Douglas Fairbanks, through the eyes of his niece.

One of the most appealing aspects of The Fourth Musketeer is its approach to telling Fairbanks’ life story. It’s not written like a traditional biography but is instead written more like a story with characters, conversations, and plenty of adventure. Letitia breathes life into the revered public hero by celebrating his exceptionality while still reminding us of his more human side. Even Douglas Fairbanks had flaws that were masked by his youthful, vigorous, can-do approach to life. The very same traits that made him a star. Letitia captures all sides of Fairbanks by conveying stories from his childhood, providing glimpses into the interesting characters that shaped him along the way, and allowing readers to discover who he was behind-the-scenes of his illustrious career. Highlights include first-hand accounts about how Fairbanks met his true love, Mary Pickford, and how he met his lifelong friend, Charlie Chaplin.

Originally published in 1953, the newest edition of The Fourth Musketeer has been taken to the next level by Kelley Smoot, daughter of Letitia Fairbanks. Numerous rarely seen photographs that create visuals to go along with the text have been added, many coming from archival collections and family archives. In addition, Smoot’s carefully researched photo captions provide even greater insight into the already rich history of Fairbanks’ life and career. Her contributions to the book are reason enough to add The Fourth Musketeer to your must-read list. Smoot has also re-packaged the book in a new sleek design with an iconic image of Fairbanks sitting atop a roof with his bow and arrow like a modern day Robin Hood on the front cover, making it a great book to add to your coffee table or shelf display. Smoot also added a wonderful introduction by Fairbanks’ great-grandson, Dominick Fairbanks, and a foreward by Eileen Whitfield. Smoot’s dedication to keeping the Fairbanks legacy alive is truly admirable.

If you are a Douglas Fairbanks fan, The Fourth Musketeer is a must-have. It truly is the closest we will ever get to an autobiography of the great actor. But this book is for a much wider audience than already established fans of Fairbanks. If you love Hollywood history, silent film, romance, and adventure, then you, too, will enjoy The Fourth Musketeer. As the book shows us, no matter how much time may pass, there will never be another Douglas Fairbanks.


Book arrives February 1, 2019!

Very special thanks to Kelley Smoot for asking me to review the book and allowing me an advance copy. I am honored to be able to do my part in spreading the word about all-things Fairbanks.


Pre-Order The Fourth Musketeer:


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The Tragedy of Little Annie Rooney

I am not a crier. I am intensely passionate, easily moved, deeply emotional, and perceptive but I am not a crier. However there is one thing that has always been able to pull the tears out of me and that is art. And film is one of the arts that can start the waterworks for me. And it often does. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sad scene or a tragic story to draw a tear. Sometimes it’s simply the beauty of a film or a joyful or triumphant moment in a story.

When I sat down to think about what film I wanted to cover for this blogathon I thought of several movies that make me cry no matter how many times I’ve seen them. I thought of It’s a Wonderful Life, Imitation of Life, Titanic, and even The Lion King. But there was another movie that came to mind that I recently watched and had a good cry over. But it may not be anything you would expect.

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The Costumes of Cinema’s First Swashbuckling Hero

In the 1920s, Douglas Fairbanks found great success in and popularized the costumed hero. Never before had moviegoers seen such a spirited, all-American, brawny man dash across the screen in such a dazzling manner. It drew movie fans in and resulted in Fairbanks becoming dubbed the King of Hollywood. Despite his reluctance to become a costumed hero, Fairbanks has been immortalized in film history as the first swashbuckling hero of the silver screen and set the standard for future generations of movie heroes.

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The Fairbanks Legacy: Fides Conatus et Fidelitas

In 1922, at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, on the very balcony that Charles Lindbergh would later stand to a cheering crowd of thousands after his great flight, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Jr. had what Douglas, Jr., referred to as, “the worst row in my life!”1 The issue at hand: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.’s, entry into a film career. The last thing Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., wanted for his son was for him to become a movie star. After all, he was the King of Hollywood and represented to many Americans the ideal model of youth and  masculinity. Having a teenage son in the movies had the potential to make him seem old to audiences and there was certainly a fear of possibly being embarrassed by his own son. On top of it all, he feared his son was being taken advantage of because of the name he carried. Whatever the true reasoning for his disapproval, the rift between father and son significantly impacted and shaped the film career of Douglas, Jr.

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