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Star of the Month: Merle Oberon
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suppliedTitle,The Private Life of Don Juan

The Private Life of Don Juan

In one of the screen's most poignant farewell performances, Douglas Fairbanks plays Don Juan as an aging roué. Despite the heart-rending sight of the aging swashbuckler playing an aging lover, the film was actually a romantic comedy. When Don Juan changes his identity to escape his wife (Benita Hume) and his creditors, nobody will take him seriously without the legendary name to back him up. The star had traveled to England after a two-year hiatus from the screen, primarily to accompany his son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who was in search of better roles. Fairbanks, Jr. did quite well there, and Fairbanks, Sr. signed with producer Alexander Korda, who decided to film an adaptation of Henry Bataille's 1920 play L'Homme a la Rose. Korda gave Fairbanks a lavish, studio-confined production and surrounded him with beautiful leading ladies, including Merle Oberon, Hume, Binnie Barnes, Heather Thatcher and Diana Napier. Although he was in his fifties when he made the film and had to limit his swashbuckling to climbing a few ropes, critics complained that Fairbanks was too young to play a fiftyish Don Juan. The film was a box-office dud, and he died five years later.

By Frank Miller



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