Fairbanks was born Douglas Ullman in Colorado in 1883 into a wealthy Jewish family who had emigrated from Germany. He began acting early, moving to New York to start his career. He was most famous for his swashbuckling roles such as Zorro and Robin Hood.
Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in 1892 in Toronto, Canada. She began acting as a child and made a success on Broadway before her fame on the silver screen. As well as America's Sweetheart she was billed as Little Mary and the Girl with the Curls.
Douglas and Mary met in 1916 on a Liberty Bond tour when both were already famous and both were married to others. Fairbanks fell in love immediately and set out to divorce his wife Anna, pressing Mary to complete her divorce from her husband,Moore.
Pickford, Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Griffith formed the film studio United Artists in 1919, becoming powerful players on the Hollywood scene.
In 1920 Fairbanks and Pickford married and set out on a honeymoon tour of Europe. Here they were met by thousands of adoring fans wherever they went, a new phenomenon in the entertainment world. They became Hollywood's first celebrity couple and were the first to place their handprints and footprints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Returning to America, they bought a property in Beverly Hills and proceeded to turn it into a marvellous estate, known as Pickfair. They entertained often and lavishly. Their home was the sought after invitation for royalty as well as prominent actors and businessmen.
At times Mary seemed to weary of the constant energy surrounding her. Also Fairbanks liked to control her appearances, her behaviour and her public image. In her biography Lillian Gish wrote that once Mary phoned her from a hotel room in New York where she had gone for a brief escape "Oh I just couldn't take it any longer, the house, the servants, the company. I'm here in a little hotel room, just for the quiet."
In 1936 after sixteen years of marriage, they divorced. Pickford referred to Fairbanks as "a little boy who never grew up."
Fairbanks remarried to Sylvia Ashley and retired from entertainment. Mary remained at Pickfair, gradually withdrawing from the celebrity scene. She had been estranged for years from her two children but kept in contact with her stepson Douglas Fairbanks Jr. one of the few people along with fellow actress Lillian Gish that were now invited to Pickfair. She married Buddy Rogers and became more and more reclusive, slipping into alcoholism as her father and two siblings had.
Douglas Fairbanks died in 1939 of a heart attack. Mary died in 1979 from a crebral hemhorrage. Born in Canada, Pickford had become an American citizen on her marriage to Fairbanks but at the end of her life, she took steps to reclaim her Canadian citizenship as she wanted to die a Canadian. She had dual citizenship at the time of her death.
The legendary Pickfair was sold for over five million dollars and then re-sold to Pia Zadora in 1988 for seven million. She had it torn down, keeping some of the surrounding amenities such as the pool.
Fairbanks and Pickford were stars separately but together they set Hollywood on fire.