DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS JR. completed nearly all his movies by 1951, when he was 42 years old. Thus he spent more than half his adult life not being a movie star. That was fine with him, for the family business wasn't acting; it was international celebrity, a trade his father Douglas Sr. virtually invented. It seemed his son, with whom I collaborated on a book and a 25-year friendship, wanted to see if he could retain his fame by appearing as little as possible in public.

At this he did splendidly--a chipper, light-spirited man, always with a fresh carnation on the...

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