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Douglas Fairbanks’ Chicken Southern-Style

Fry chicken to a golden brown in plenty of butter. Remove chicken and set on a hot platter. For the gravy use, a spoonful of flour browned in the chicken pan and mix with half a cup of water and two cups of cream. Add chicken back in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste.

This was so so good. A great Sunday dinner. My family eats a lot of chicken so this was a nice dish. I forgot to take a photo of my plate before eating. However, I served it with mashed potatoes and green beans. I used the same gravy for the chicken on my potatoes.

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Yes – It is that Douglas Fairbanks Sr.

The creator of this week’s recipe was not born in Saginaw. In fact, he never lived in Saginaw. However, he did make at least one visit when he delivered an address at the Auditorium on April 11, 1918, as part of his war bond drive efforts. A clipping from a Saginaw newspaper recounts –

“He told us we looked rich and prosperous, that we ought to come across, and in an inimitable way of his own he drove the message home, hammered it down, shouted to celebrate its clinching, and then jumped for good measure.”

“It was Fairbanks all right who talked to the huge audience which crammed the Auditorium Thursday afternoon. He was all there from the athletic build to the smile, from the stunts to the dynamic short cut, snappy style of delivery which chopped out the words like a Gatling gun and bombarded the audience with Liberty Loan inspiration.”

Born in Denver in 1883, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was originally named Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman. According to his biography on Wikipedia:

“He left school in the spring of 1899, at the age of 15. He variously claimed to have attended Colorado School of Mines and Harvard University, but neither claim is true. He went with the acting troupe of Frederick Warde, beginning a cross-country tour in September 1899. He toured with Warde for two seasons, functioning in dual roles, both as an actor and as the assistant stage manager in his second year with the group.

After two years he moved to New York, where he found his first Broadway role in Her Lord and Master, which premiered in February 1902. He worked in a hardware store and as a clerk in a Wall Street office between acting jobs. Another of his Broadway appearances included the popular, A Gentleman from Mississippi in 1908–09. On July 11, 1907, Fairbanks married Anna Beth Sully, the daughter of wealthy industrialist Daniel J. Sully in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. They had one son, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., also a noted actor. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1915.

After moving to Los Angeles, Fairbanks signed a contract with Triangle Pictures and began working under the supervision of D. W. Griffith. His first film was titled, The Lamb, and debuted the athletic abilities that would gain him wide attention among theatre audiences. Although his athleticism was not appreciated by Griffith, he was brought to the attention of Anita Loos and John Emerson; who wrote and directed many of Fairbanks’s early romantic comedies. In 1916, Fairbanks established his own company, the Douglas Fairbanks Film Corporation, and would soon get a job at Paramount.

Fairbanks met actress Mary Pickford at a party in 1916, and the couple soon began an affair. In 1917, they joined Fairbanks' friend Charlie Chaplin selling war bonds by train across the United States and delivering pro-war speeches as Four Minute Men. Pickford and Chaplin were the two highest-paid film stars in Hollywood at that time.”

It was Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s efforts selling war bonds that brought him to Saginaw. In Savoring Saginaw, the cookbook’s authors, Jean Beach and Pat Shek note:

“The handsome dashing superstar of swashbuckling films [Douglas Fairbanks Sr.] nearly caused a riot when he visited Saginaw in 1918 on a war bond drive. Saginaw High School was forced to close when over 60% of the students cut classes to see the movie idol.”

Douglas Fairbank Sr.’s career – and personal life – were well-publicized and included marriage to screen star Mary Pickford. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was one of many silent film stars who found their stardom dimmed by the advent of the “talkies” - motion pictures with sound. He passed away in 1939.

As you make Douglas Fairbanks’ recipe, we encourage you not to be star struck. The paper reported he was all the people of “Saginaw expected, and more.” The article noted: “That smile 1,000 percent more powerful in reality than when shown in pictures, possesses such magnetism that all Saginaw could do was smile back – and it did.” As you savor and enjoy this recipe remember Douglas Fairbanks “waved, smiled and grinned and laughed back at Saginaw.” After his presentation, he got into an automobile to lead a parade.


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