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Douglas, Paul
Written by James Colt Harrison   

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Date of Birth: April 11, 1907

Date of Birth: April 11, 1907

Date of Death: September 11, 1959

Place of Death: Hollywood, California

Cause of Death: Heart attack

 

 

EARLY YEARS

He was born Paul Douglas Fleischer April 11, 1907 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a well-to-do family. He became interested in acting while in high school. Although he never went to college, he excelled in sports and played professional football for a time. In 1928 he became interested in the new medium of radio when that form of communication became popular in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He had a highly successful career as a sports caster and master of ceremonies. He got a gig working as an announcer on radio station WCAU In his home town, which led to his moving to New York in 1934 at age 27 to work at CBS headquarters. Douglas was given the job of co-hosting The Saturday Night Swing Show from 1936 to 1939.

SHOW BUSINESS

Douglas was still interested in acting and managed to appear in some stock shows and small theater plays. Broadway beckoned and Douglas made his stage debut in 1936 playing - a radio announcer! The show flopped, but Douglas wasn't deterred. He continued with his radio career announcing for such major stars as comedians Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and George Burns and Gracie Allen.

When Broadway icon writer/director Garson Kanin offered him the part of hot-headed junkman and chauvinist Harry Brock in the comedy Born Yesterday , Douglas jumped at the part. Starring with Judy Holliday and Gary Merrill (once married to Bette Davis), both he and the play became a smash hit. For his role he won the Theatre World and Clarence Derwent Acting Awards in 1946.

Hollywood noticed the big, brash guy with the burly football player's build. Rushed to Hollywood, writer/director Joseph Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Cleopatra) cast him in 20th Century Fox's A Letter To Three Wives with beauty Linda Darnell. The picture was an immediate hit, and Douglas was on his way to a successful motion picture career.

Among the many hits of his movie career were Angels in the Outfield (1951) with Janet Leigh, Panic in the Streets (1951) with Richard Widmark, Clash By Night (1952) with Barbara Stanwyck, The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956) with Judy Holliday, and The Mating Game (1959) with Debbie Reynolds.

 

PERSONAL LIFE

The ladies seemed to like Douglas' brash manner because he had five wives. His first three wives were dispatched with quickly during the early 1930s and 1940s. Being an eligible young man about Hollywood, Douglas met the lovely actress Virginia Field (1917-1992), who was best known for her roles in Waterloo Bridge (1940) and 20th Century Fox's Mr. Moto series. They married and had a son, Johnnie (1942) and a daughter Margaret (1945). They divorced in 1946 after Douglas found out she was having an affair with film crooner Dick Powell (1904-1963). Powell apparently got around as he was in the last throes of his marriage to Joan Blondell and was chasing MGM starlet June Allyson, whom he married in 1945. Miss Field was apparently squeezed in after Blondell and before Allyson, a tight squeeze indeed.

Shattered from his divorce from Ms. Field, Douglas remained a bachelor for almost four years. While on the lot at MGM, he met and fell in love with actress Jan Sterling. They married in 1950 and produced daughter Celia (1954) and son Adams (1955-2003). Ms. Sterling was an accomplished actress and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar® in the John Wayne picture, The High and Mighty (1954). Douglas and Sterling remained married until his death in 1959.

 

INTERESTING TRIVIA

Douglas' fourth wife Virginia Field was born in London and studied stage acting. By coincidence, Douglas' second wife Jan Sterling was buried at the Garden of Actors Churchyard Cemetery in London.

Douglas worked with many beautiful leading ladies, but one starlet stood out above all the others. In 1952's We're Not Married, Marilyn Monroe stole the picture and got all the publicity, even though she was not the star. Douglas was paired with Ginger Rogers, who apparently got into a snit when Marilyn had all the press photographers in a lather over her bathing beauty body. He worked with Monroe again in Clash By Night.

 



                       

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